Sir John Major has delivered a memorable lecture full of praise for the “mighty” talent of the late historian Sir Martin Gilbert .

Speaking to a packed audience of 250 people on Tuesday, including members of the House of Lords and pupils from his alma matter Highgate School, Sir John spoke at the launch of the Sir Martin Gilbert Learning Centre in Highgate Synagogue.

Describing his friend as “self-effacing and modest”, the former prime minister warmly described the rarity of “so much talent (being) so well conceived”.

Gilbert, one of the UK’s most respected historians, died in 2015 aged 78. The writer of the authoritative work on Winston Churchill, he also acted as an adviser to several prime ministers.

It was the eminent historian’s “intuitive and enquiring mind over how history unfolded”, and unique ability to be a “seer”, which provided the theme for Sir John’s delivery of ‘The Sir Martin Gilbert Inaugural Lecture’: the need to see the world as it is.

Despite opening his remarks with “uplifting” global successes, he cautioned that “politics and statesmanship have in some ways… gone backwards.”

Highlighting the rise in intolerance that has accompanied the growth in nationalism and populism, Sir John delivered a damning verdict of Brexit as a “historic mistake” “overinflating” the nation’s influence on the global stage.

He cautioned that the prospects of reaching a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict “seems further away than ever”, and warned against viewing the Middle East as “a single problem requiring a single solution”.

On rising anti-Semitism, Sir John firmly argued intolerance was an “unforgivable denial of basic
human instincts”.