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Tuesday, October 27, 1998 Published at 21:30 GMT

UK Politics

The Major Scandal Sheet

House of ill repute

Welsh Secretary Ron Davies is the first of Tony Blair's ministers to resign after a "lapse of judgement", but the current prime minister still has far to go to catch John Major's unenviable record.

His tenure as prime minister was littered with fallen politicians, beginning in July 1992 when National Heritage Secretary David Mellor survived a tabloid story about an affair with actress Antonia de Sanchez.

[ image: David Mellor: Started the rot]
David Mellor: Started the rot
He then went from "Toe job to no job" that September after it was revealed he had allowed the daughter of a senior PLO figure to pay for a holiday - contrary to the rules governing ministerial conduct.

Michael Mates, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, handed in his resignation in June 1993 after it was revealed he had lobbied parliament on behalf of businessman Asil Nadir.

Nadir, who was and remains a fugitive from British justice, gave Mr Mates an watch inscribed with the message: "Don't Let the Buggers Get You Down."

Latest report from Chief Political correspondent John Sergeant
In 1993, the Major government - perhaps fatally - launched the 'Back to Basics' campaign. It was notorious for its high moral tone and sparked intense media interest in MPs' private lives.

Environment Minister Tim Yeo let the side down almost immediately after a tabloid exposť in January 1994 revealed he had fathered an illegitimate child by Conservative councillor Julia Stent.

[ image: Neil Hamilton: Trying to prove his innocence]
Neil Hamilton: Trying to prove his innocence
Mr Major then lost two parliamentary private secretaries and a second minister in the same month. PPS Alan Duncan resigned in January 1994 after news that he had made £50,000 from an illicit purchasing deal on a council house.

PPS David Ashby also quit after admitting that he shared a hotel bed with another man.

Minister for Aviation and Shipping, the Earl of Caithness, then resigned after the suicide of his wife, who shot herself in despair at his relationship with another woman.

In February 1994, PPS Hartley Booth, Methodist lay preacher and grandson of the founder of the Salvation Army, quit after a "friendship" with a Commons researcher.

Government Whip Michael Brown succumbed in May 1994 after a storm over tabloid allegations of a homosexual affair with a 20-year-old student.

PPSs Graham Riddick and David Tredinnick, Junior Northern Ireland Minister Tim Smith and Corporate Affairs Minister Neil Hamilton all resigned from government posts between July and October 1994 over the 'cash for questions' scandal.

All four men were implicated in accepting money in return for asking parliamentary questions. Neil Hamilton is still campaigning to prove his innocence.

[ image: Jonathan Aitken: Disastrous libel case]
Jonathan Aitken: Disastrous libel case
December 1994 saw Conservative Party Vice-chairman Patrick Nicholls establish his Euro-sceptic credentials by branding Germans "warmongers" and the French "collaborators". He resigned shortly afterwards.

Scottish Office Minister for Industry Allan Stewart handed in his notice in February 1995 after reportedly waving a pickaxe at an anti-motorway campaigner.

Jonathan Aitken resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in July 1995 to concentrate on his libel actions against Granada's World in Action programme and The Guardian newspaper.

His case subsequently collapsed and he has since been charged with perjury. He is now facing a claim for legal expenses estimated to be worth millions of pounds.

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