| Edwina Currie and John Major (PTI)
London, Sept. 28: The world of British politics has been shaken by the revelation that the former Prime Minister, John Major, had a four-year affair from 1984-88 with Edwina Currie, a junior minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government.
The revelation has been made by Currie herself, who is about to publish her diaries, and confirmed by Major. Most people will be stunned by the disclosure because Major has hitherto been derided as “the grey man of British politics”. As Prime minister, he urged the British to return to old fashioned family values in a famous “back to basics” speech — a stand which found huge appeal among Indians, incidentally.
Even Major’s closest colleagues in parliament were unaware of their relationship, which has been one of the best kept secrets in the Palace of Westminster, which is a hot bed of intrigue. The timing of the revelation has everything to do with Currie’s political diaries, which are to be serialised in The Times from Monday.
Last week, when Britain suffered a minor earthquake, Currie, now a part-time broadcaster, was in a studio and expressed consternation when the building shook. Now, she has given details of how the earth moved for her during snatched moments with Major in her London flat. The liaison began in 1984 when Currie was a backbencher and Major a whip in Margaret Thatcher’s government.
Currie — who later became a health minister — says that the affair ended in early 1988 after his swift promotion to the Cabinet as chief secretary to the treasury.
In a statement to the paper, Major said his wife Norma had known of the affair for many years and had forgiven him. He added: “It is the one event in my life of which I am most ashamed and I have long feared would be made public.”
Currie was not included in Major’s Cabinet when he became Prime Minister, leading to speculation that she is getting her own back. She said that after his arrival in 10 Downing Street she “appeared to have been forgotten”.
“If you are out in politics, you are an awful long way out. And it felt like I’d been pushed off in a boat adrift at sea.”
Currie admitted she was also hurt not to be mentioned in the index of Major’s autobiography. Defending her timing Currie — now a presenter on BBC Radio 5 Live — said the events happened “a very long time ago”.
Lady Archer, the wife of disgraced Tory peer Lord Archer and herself a long suffering wife, said that she was surprised to learn of the affair. “I am a little surprised, not at Mrs Currie’s indiscretion but at a temporary lapse in John Major’s taste," she commented.
Currie became notorious when as a health minister in 1988 she remarked that most of Britain’s egg production was infected with salmonella. A huge storm followed as egg sales plummeted and she was eventually forced to resign.