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Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Westminster's odd couple
Edwina Currie in 2001
Currie is used to being in the headlines

John Major and Edwina Currie were lovers.

No - not even writing it down makes it any less mind bending.

The man who tucked his shirt into his underpants had a four year affair with the most outspoken and sexually interested woman of her political generation - a sort of Essex girl Margaret Thatcher.

It's like learning that Betty Boop had been doing it with Elmer Fudd all those years.

No wonder they kept it quiet for so long.

And it's still hard to decide which one of them should be the most ashamed.

John Major
Major's caricature was grey and dull
Talk about the odd couple.

Edwina was once a virtually permanent fixture on the nation's TV screen saying something outrageous about just about anything - a habit which finally and inevitably killed off her political career - and flirting with her hosts.

Her novels were predictably racy, packed full of heaving breasts and hairy chests.

And there was always the suspicion with Edwina that she didn't just talk the talk.

Cricket and peas

Let's be frank, she was fun and every political journalist's dream come true.

Then there was John Major, the man who was so unknown when he suddenly shot through the middle to become prime minister that many political hacks had to look him up in the Times Guide to the Commons.

He was grey, had an unfortunate speech pattern and loved cricket and peas.

Rory Bremner and Spitting Image had great fun with these characters individually.


He was a much more appealing character in the flesh

Just imagine what they could have done if their affair had been known about then.

Oddly, it is Mary Archer who may have neatly summed up what many will think of this affair.

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

And that from the woman who is married to one of the most notorious liars, deceivers and fantasists in contemporary politics.

Flirt

There is, of course, a serious side to all this, not least the effect the liaison must have had on the lovers' (there's that word again) families.

And many will wonder, although not for long, why the now-divorced Mrs Currie will have chosen this moment to lift the lid on this little affair.

Some may see her as a publicity-seeker, but it also gives an insight into a John Major few saw.

He was a much more appealing character in the flesh than on the TV screens or in formal settings.

Paddy Ashdown
Ashdown's public standing rose after his affair
He could flirt with the best of them and he had a decidedly waspish, even vicious, side to his nature.

One of the unfortunate consequences of this revelation is that it will remind voters of the Tories' sleaziest period - the time when Mr Major was urging them to go back to basics just as half his party appeared to be getting down to far more modern things.

He may not have meant it that way but any politician or spin doctor worth his salt would have spotted the dangers immediately.

Mind you, historians are already starting to re-write the Major legacy - he won the 1992 election against all the odds and he helped create the economy Gordon Brown has since been taking advantage of.

Maybe, as with Paddy Ashdown when his affair with his secretary was revealed, Mr Major's opinion poll rating will actually go up in the wake of this revelation.

One thing is for sure.

This will be the talk of politics for some time to come.


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28 Sep 02 | Politics
28 Sep 02 | Politics
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