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Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Politics stunned by Major affair
John and Norma Major
As leader, Major projected a profile of personal morality
The political world has been shocked by revelations that John Major had a four-year affair with Edwina Currie before becoming prime minister.

Lady Archer, wife of disgraced Tory peer Lord Archer, reacted with a withering attack on Mrs Currie.

"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 Four's Today programme.

Former minister David Mellor, who quit the cabinet in 1992 after admitting an affair with an actress, said: "I think it's time we all grew up about this sort of thing."

David Mellor
Mellor: Resigned from Major cabinet
He criticised the "double standards" of journalists and said The Times - which broke the story - was "behaving like a sleazy red-top tabloid".

"The interesting question to ask is would it have been good for the country if John Major's affair with Edwina Currie, when both were married, had been discovered, and John Major not been permitted to continue his political career," he added.

Mr Major's biographer, Penny Junor, was also unaware of the affair, but said his marriage had been strained until Norma became more involved in his political life in the 1990s.

"He was a man in need of some arms around him, and his wife wasn't there to do it during the week," she said.

But the former prime minister - a "real gentleman" - would not be badly affected by this and now seemed to have a "terrific" marriage, she added.

Edwina 'emotional'

Times editor Robert Thomson told Today Mrs Currie could have brought down the Major government, had her revelations come at that time.

"This was a government which was projecting a profile for personal morality.

"Certainly she would have been aware of the contradiction of John Major having a succession of ministers tainted by scandal coming into his office, such as David Mellor, having to resign for these sorts of indiscretions.


John Major is revealed as a more interested, more rounded and more complicated person

Andrew Marr
BBC political editor
"And he himself being aware of his own deep, dark secret about his own indiscretion."

Mr Thomson said Mrs Currie had retained a detachment from Mr Major since the affair which meant the interview had led to an "outpouring of emotion".

BBC political editor Andrew Marr said the news had taken Whitehall by surprise, but it had no current political significance.

"John Major is revealed as a more interested, more rounded and more complicated person than the former prime minister we knew up to now," he added.

Jonathan Aitken
Aitken said it was an 'explosive' secret
Mr Marr said the two people were both Conservative "outsiders" who worked their way up the party ranks and were married to non-political partners.

Disgraced former minister Jonathan Aitken, who served in Mr Major's cabinet before his conviction for perjury, said the revelation would have been "explosive" when in office.

He told ITN News: "I don't say it would have brought the government down but it would have certainly damaged a government said to be tarnished by sleaze very much indeed."

But PR consultant Max Clifford said the affair could have improved Mr Major's public image when he was prime minister.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bob Sinkinson
"Edwina Currie is a woman never to shun publicity"
See also:

28 Sep 02 | Politics
28 Sep 02 | Politics
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