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Senior Tories critical of Currie

London, Oct. 1: Senior Tories turned on Edwina Currie yesterday as she and John Major prepared to make their first public appearances since the disclosure of their four-year affair.

One former woman Cabinet minister told The Daily Telegraph that opinion in the Conservative Party had swung rapidly against Currie. “First reaction was ‘Gosh!’ but that was quickly overtaken by the view that crucifixion is too good for her.”

She was joined by David Mellor, the former heritage secretary, who mounted a vitriolic attack against his former colleague in the London Evening Standard.

“So basically she sold John Major down the river for cash, like a cheap trollop. As someone who has been there, I can only shudder at the torment of the dammed he must have gone through every time someone else’s private life was in the headlines.”

Currie, 55, and Major, 59, are both due to break cover tomorrow after avoiding the cameras for the last five days.

Major, who is on a speaking tour of the United States, will address an invitation-only dinner for 600 guests in Dallas, Texas, tomorrow in aid of the charity Mercy Ships, for which he is being paid £27,000.

The former Prime Minister, who has issued only a brief statement on the affair, is expected to appear at a press conference before the event.

Currie, whose comments have so far been confined to the pages of the national newspaper serialising her diaries, will appear on Radio 5’s breakfast programme tomorrow and on tomorrow night’s edition of Tonight With Trevor McDonald. ITV1 has changed its schedule to accommodate the programme.

Neither Major’s wife, Dame Norma, who is at the family home in Cambridgeshire, nor MCurrie’s first husband, Ray, to whom she was married during the affair between 1984 and 1988, have spoken publicly on the subject.

The chorus of Tory condemnation was joined by a former senior whip and member of the Cabinet in the 1980s. He ridiculed Currie’s belief, made clear in her diaries, that she considered herself a potential rival of her then lover for the Tory leadership following the departure of Lady Thatcher.

“That was complete and utter nonsense,” said the source. “Edwina always had a liking and a gift for publicity but she was pretty unpopular with other backbenchers.”

He denied any knowledge of the relationship at the time, despite the role of whips as intelligence gatherers in the Commons. “The idea that the whips always know what’s going on is frankly baloney,” he said.

In the third instalment of her diaries published in The Times newspaper, Currie speaks of her depression when Major was in Downing Street and she was marooned in the Tory backbenches.

“Right now I felt lonely, neglected, unused and unloved!” wrote Currie at home in London on January 24, 1991, two months after Major took office.

“I wish my flat was filled with one big man in his blue underpants,” she continued, alluding to Major who was once famously described as being the kind of guy who tucked his shirt into his y-front briefs.

“I wish I was warm and sticky and laughing... I haven’t been drinking, but I’m deep in a black hole tonight and there is no one else in it here with me,” added Currie.

Major was lampooned for years by cartoonist steve bell in his regular newspaper strip as wearing his y-fronts on the outside of his trousers in a not-so-sophisticated copy of superman.

Another former senior whip in the 1980s said he had no

idea about the affair. "It's a while ago but I think I

would have remembered it, frankly. Whips like to think

we know a little bit more than other people do and we

like to cultivate our image of discretion because that

makes people more likely to confide in you.

"But that doesn't mean to say you know everything. I

doubt many people knew of it, simply because it would

have come out earlier."

One report suggested that Mr Major feared his affair

with Mrs Currie had wrecked his ambition to become a

Knight of the Garter, one of the highest honours in

the Queen's gift.

All other surviving former Prime Ministers are members

of the Order and Mr Major was said to be desperate to

join them. However, a friend reacted with scorn.

"John Major is genuinely a commoner. That is why he

didn't want to go to the Lords. So, I don't think you

will find he is kept awake at night by worries about

the Garter."

A spokesman for the Conservative Party said they were

not aware Mr Major would be attending the annual

conference in Bournemouth next week. He was not at

last year's conference.

29 September 2002: 'I was a decoy for Major's affair'

says former Downing Street cook

30 September 2002: Currie set her sights on leading

Tory party

8 October 2001: Former premiers staying away

Information appearing on Electronic Telegraph is the

copyright of Telegraph Group Limited and must not be

reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full

copyright statement see Copyright

=====

Jaideep Chatterjee

Assistant News Editor

The Telegraph

6,9 Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta, India

00-91-33-2600216, 00-91-33-2600229

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