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Sunday, 29 September, 2002, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
Major faces legal action over affair
Edwina Currie and John Major
Mrs Currie admitted the affair in her diaries
Former prime minister John Major is facing a legal challenge from two magazines he successfully took action against for alleging he had been unfaithful to his wife.

Mr Major has now admitted he had a four-year love affair with former Conservative minister Edwina Currie.

In 1993, Mr Major and Claire Latimer successfully took legal action against the New Statesman and Scallywag over their suggestions of an affair.

But following Saturday's revelations of his affair with Mrs Currie, both magazines say they are considering legal action.


The publishing company and the estate of the editor are considering whether to commence legal proceedings to recover losses and expenses

Solicitor David Price
New Statesman editor Peter Wilby said the action had very nearly closed the magazine at the time due to legal costs.

He said if it had been known Mr Major had committed adultery in the past, the outcome may have been very different.

He told BBC News: "My first reaction was one of complete amazement - that we did not have the slightest idea that this was going on - but that soon gave way to indignance, that he had sued the New Statesman over the allegations... which meant we came very close to closure at one stage."

Mr Wilby said he would be consulting with his lawyers on Monday to find out if the magazine was due any compensation for its losses.

Mr Major issued the writ against Scallywag, New Statesman and Society magazines, arguing the accusations of adultery amounted to a serious attack on his reputation.

Scallywag pledged not to repeat the allegations but its financial position never recovered and it subsequently folded.

The editor, Simon Regan, died two years ago.

'Serious attack'

The magazine's solicitor at the time, David Price said there was a possibility the publishers and the estate of the editor would take action to recover losses they incurred at the time.

He said: "John Major's claim against my clients, their printers and distributors was on the basis that it was a serious attack on his reputation to accuse him of adultery.

"It's apparent from what has become public in the last day that this was a false premise."


Now I can actually hold my head up high and say it was nothing to do with me

Clare Latimer

Ms Latimer, the 10 Downing Street caterer falsely named as his lover, has also joined the fray.

She claims Mr Major used her as a "decoy" to prevent what would have been the more politically damaging exposure of the affair he had with Mrs Currie from 1984 to 1988.

Ms Latimer told the BBC that she believed he had allowed the rumours about his affair with her to circulate unchecked to cover his real affair with Mrs Currie, which could have destroyed his chances of becoming prime minister.

"Now I can actually hold my head up high and say it was nothing to do with me.

"He or they or whatever I'd been planted to hide a story, which is the most extraordinary thing to me when you work in a place like Downing Street, to be put into this position."

Mr Major confirmed the affair after Mrs Currie disclosed details to The Times, ahead of the newspaper's serialisation of her diaries.

Publishers expect sales of Mrs Currie's diaries, priced at 18.99, to top 100,000 by Christmas.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Carole Walker
"The magazines in question are considering fresh legal action"
Editor of the New Statesman, Peter Wilby
"My reaction was one of compete amazement and great indignation"

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28 Sep 02 | Politics
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