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Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Major and Currie had four-year affair
John Major and Edwina Currie in 1984
Currie said she felt 'forgotten' when Major was premier
Former Prime Minister John Major has admitted he had a four-year affair with the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie.

Mr Major described it as the most shameful event of his life, but said his wife Norma had long known of the relationship and had forgiven him.

Mrs Currie made the disclosure in her diaries, which are being serialised in the Times newspaper.

Key events
May 1979: Major enters Commons
1983: Currie enters Commons
1984: Major becomes Treasury Chief Whip and begins affair with backbencher Currie
1986: Currie becomes health minister
1987: Major becomes Treasury chief secretary
1988: Currie ends affair
1988: Currie resigns after salmonella scandal
1990: Major becomes prime minister
The affair began in 1984 when Mrs Currie was a backbencher and Mr Major a whip in Margaret Thatcher's government.

Mrs Currie - who later became a health minister - said 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, Mr Major said his wife Norma had known of the affair for many years.

"It is the one event in my life of which I am most ashamed and I have long feared would be made public."

The Times reports that the friendship between the two continued after his move to the Treasury and the end of their affair.

Edwina Currie
Edwina Currie as an MP in 1987 - the year before the affair ended

Mr Major's famous call for a "back-to-basics" approach to public life was interpreted by many as support for a traditional view of morality.

But it backfired when ministers became embroiled in sex scandals and Mr Major's administration was accused of hypocrisy and sleaze.

Mrs Currie claims in the diaries that her love for Mr Major persisted after he became prime minister in 1990, "dominating her life".

Timing defended

However, she says 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."

Mrs Currie admitted she was hurt not to be mentioned in the index of Mr Major's autobiography.


I am a little surprised, not at Mrs Currie's indiscretion but at a temporary lapse in John Major's taste

Lady Archer
She also described her former lover as having "quite a Machiavellian streak about him".

But she has denied her diaries are an act of revenge.

Asked whether she still loved Mr Major, she said: "That's difficult".

Nothing has been known publicly about the relationship until Saturday's report in the Times.

Defending her timing Mrs Currie - now a presenter on BBC Radio 5 Live - said the events happened "a very long time ago".

The Times
Currie revealed the affair in The Times
Lady Archer, the wife of disgraced Tory peer Lord Archer, 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 told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

BBC political editor Andrew Marr said: "Let's be honest, it's a fascinating story.

"There's an element of prurience, we're enjoying talking about it, but I don't think it has any significance now."

Mrs 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.

She and her first husband, Ray, formally separated in 1997 and he never knew of the affair.

She married her second husband, John Jones, a retired detective in 1999.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"John Major knew he was sitting on a powder keg of a secret"

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