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 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.
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".

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.
John Major: A life in politics
John and Norma Major
John and Norma Major: At home in Huntingdon
A reported four-year affair with Edwina Currie could change the way history views John Major and his seven-year term in 10 Downing Street.

Until now he was widely seen as the unwitting victim of his own call for the Conservatives to go 'back to basics' - a succession of sexual scandals amongst ministers followed, helping to fatally weaken his administration.

That was certainly the view of most commentators when he decided to stand down from the Commons at the 2001 general election, bringing an end to a remarkable political career.

Major and Thatcher
Mr Major replaced Margaret Thatcher as prime minister in 1990
Born on 29 March 1943, Mr Major grew up in Brixton, south London.

He did not enjoy a very illustrious school career and dropped out at the age of 16.

He soon became interested in local politics and was an active member of the Brixton Young Conservatives.

From 1968 to 1971 he held a seat on Lambeth Borough Council.

He was adopted as prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Huntingdon in May 1976 and elected as its member of parliament in May 1979

From 1981 to 1983 he was a parliamentary private secretary to ministers of state at the Home Office.
John Major's parliamentary career
'79: elected as Huntingdon MP
'81 to '83: parliamentary private secretary to home office ministers
'83-4: Assistant government whip
'84-5: Treasury whip
'85-6: Under-secretary of state for social security
'86: Minister of state for social security
'87: Chief secretary to the treasury
'89: Foreign secretary and then chancellor of the exchequer
'90-'97: Prime minister
He then rose quickly through the ranks, first serving as assistant government whip (1983-4) when the affair with Mrs Currie began.

The next move was treasury whip (1984-5), under-secretary of state for social security (1985-6) and then minister of state for social security in 1986.

He became chief secretary to the treasury in 1987 - when the liaison with Mrs Currie ended - and by 1990, when Michael Heseltine and Douglas Hurd challenged Mrs Thatcher for the party leadership, he was chancellor.

When Mrs Thatcher failed to see off the leadership contenders in the first round of voting, Mr Major announced his candidature and won the leadership.

Three months later, in the aftermath of the Gulf War, he had become the most popular prime minister in 30 years.

Dogged by divisions

His style of leadership was a stark contrast to his predecessor's with Mr Major running a much more inclusive cabinet.

His successes included reaching agreement with other European nations on the Maastricht Treaty and bringing about an IRA ceasefire in 1994 which laid the foundations for the Good Friday Agreement.

But his premiership was dogged by divisions in his party over Europe and accusations of government sleaze.

In June 1995, stung by criticism of his leadership Major took the unprecedented step for a British prime minister of resigning as head of his party, forcing a leadership vote.

Although he won the vote he remained deeply unpopular and the party failed to unite behind him.

The party and Mr Major struggled through to the 1997 general election but it was no surprise when Labour swept to power - with the Conservatives suffering their heaviest election result of the 20th century

Mr Major announced his decision to relinquish the leadership of the Conservative party immediately telling the world it was "time to leave the stage".

On 19 June 1997, William Hague became the party's leader and Mr Major retired to the back benches.

But he still made his voice heard, criticising Tory MPs who advocated a move further to the right in 1999, which he said would lose them the election.

And he recently joined the political debate over military action in Iraq, drawing on his experience as prime minister during the Gulf War.
Friday, 10 March, 2000, 18:41 GMT
Major to stand down
John Major
Mr Major resigned as Tory leader in 1997
Former Prime Minister John Major has announced that he is to stand down as an MP at the next general election.

My family has sacrificed much for politics and it is now time for politics to make way

John Major
In a letter to his Huntingdon Conservative Association, Mr Major said he had reached his decision "after a great deal of soul searching and sadness".

But he said: "I would rather go while I am being urged to stay rather than stay beyond the time when I should go."

The 56-year-old MP was elected to Parliament in 1979 and subsequently had a startling rise through the ministerial ranks of Margaret Thatcher's government, becoming foreign secretary and chancellor in her cabinet.

And when Mrs (now Lady) Thatcher resigned in the wake of Michael Heseltine's challenge to her leadership in 1990, Mr Major was selected by Tory MPs to succeed her.
He then led the Conservatives to an unexpected general election victory in 1992.
But his years in power were marked by vicious in-fighting within his party, particularly over the UK's links with Europe.

Family sacrifices
Mr Major, whose Huntingdon constituency is one of the safest Tory seats, resigned as Conservative leader in 1997 after Labour's landslide general election victory.

John Major and Lady Thatcher
Mr Major could now join Lady Thatcher in the Lords
In his letter, Mr Major said: "I have served in Parliament for over 20 years and politics has been an important part of my life for far longer; but it is not all my life and it is time to enjoy the many other aspects that have been subordinated over so many years.

"My family has sacrificed much for politics and it is now time for politics to make way."
As an ex-prime minister, Mr Major is likely to go to the House of Lords.
Tory leader William Hague said Mr Major's colleagues would be "saddened" by his decision.

Peace efforts praised
He said Mr Major would be remembered for "the golden economic legacy from which we are still benefiting".

John has given great service to the Conservative Party and to our country

William Hague
He also praised Mr Major's work in negotiating the UK's opt-out of the European Single Currency and the Social Chapter and for his efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

Mr Hague added: "For these things and many others, the country owes him a considerable debt."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said: "John Major has made an immense contribution to British political life over the last 20 years.

"In his time as prime minister and in the three years since, he has battled valiantly against the tide of extremism that now epitomises William Hague's Conservative Party.

In the first extract of his memoirs, serialised in the Sunday Times, Mr Major criticises her for possessing "warrior characteristics" that were "profoundly un-Conservative".

Lady Thatcher is dismissive of the memoirs. Her spokesman said: "She has not looked at that."

Mr Major says she was inconsistent over Europe, contradicting her positive public stance with hostile private attacks.

He also claims Lady Thatcher's private view on Europe can be summed up as: "Never trust the Germans."
He says: "Two world wars, she thought, proved the country was expansionist by instinct. Britain's role was to stop it."

'Another Margaret'
But in practice, her approach in government was "as much pragmatist over Europe as she was sceptic".

Mr Major said: "Overall, the prime minister was undeniably 'on board' the European train, even though she was uneasy about where it was heading and complained loudly at every stop.
[ image: Lady Thatcher had
Lady Thatcher had "warrior characteristics", Mr Major said
"The trouble was there was another Margaret, usually confined to private quarters, whose gut reaction was much more hostile to Europe.
"Like a shorting circuit she flickered and crackled."
Although he supported Lady Thatcher throughout her time in power, Mr Major said that he was in private becoming "uneasy" at her increasingly "autocratic" approach.

"In public, her certainties were off-putting. In private she was capable of changing her mind at bewildering speed until she had worked up her public position," he said.

Mr Major's disclosures, on the eve of the Conservative Party conference, follow revelations in the published diaries of his former private secretary, the late Judith Chaplin, that he had wanted Lady Thatcher "destroyed".

It also follows Mr Major's public dispute with former chancellor Lord Lamont over the events of Black Wednesday in 1992.
Mr Major will not be in Blackpool next week, although Lady Thatcher is due to attend.
Senior Tories deny that Mr Major's memoirs have the potential to re-open old wounds and disrupt the conference.

[ image:
"No rift" between Thatcher and Hague, says her spokesman
Shadow Defence Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told GMTV's The Sunday Programme it was "in the past".
He also dismissed Sunday Times reports that Lady Thatcher has privately mocked current Tory leader, William Hague, as "wee Willie" who had gone soft on Europe.
Lady Thatcher's spokesman denied that there was a rift between her and Mr Hague.
And Mr Hague predicted Lady Thatcher would deliver a completely different message during the forthcoming conference.
Meanwhile, Mr Major is quoted as saying that former leaders "ought to support William and not get in his way".
Asked whether the same people were on Mr Hague's back as were on his, Mr Major replied: "A lot of people might say that. I couldn't possibly comment."

Secret sister
As more details of Mr Major's time in office emerge, he is also set to reveal details of his personal life when his memoirs are published.
The Sunday Times reports that he has discovered he had a secret half-sister, Kathleen Lemon, who is now 75.
She shares a father - the travelling showman Tom Major-Ball - with the former prime minister, his older brother Terry and his sister Pat.
Mrs Lemon is reported to have been the result of an adulterous affair in the 1920s between Mr Major-Ball and a young dancer.

In May, Mr Major was reported to have met a half-brother he had not known existed in the US.
Saturday, October 2, 1999 Published at 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK

Major hits back over 'Black Wednesday'
Bankers saw the pound's value plummet

Former Prime Minister John Major has dismissed assertions by Norman Lamont that he was incapable of handling the "Black Wednesday" crisis.
The BBC's Robin Oakley: "Once they were chums"
In the forthcoming BBC One series, The Major Years, he denies avoiding meetings with the then chancellor on the day in 1992 that sterling went into freefall.

"It just beggars belief that if the chancellor of the exchequer on a day like Wednesday, 16 September wanted to see the prime minister that anybody kept him at a distance. It just is inconceivable," Mr Major says.

John Major: Norman Lamont could have demanded a meeting
"If the chancellor had wanted to see me and said, 'This is important, I must see the prime minister immediately', it would have happened."

In extracts from his memoirs, Lord Lamont says he asked to see the prime minister straightaway, but was not allowed to see him until 12.45pm, after Mr Major had finished a meeting with Tory backbenchers.

During this time, sterling plummeted as billions of pounds were sold on the foreign exchange markets.

'Sterling falling through the floor' [...]

Lord Lamont says when the pound failed to move despite a rise in interest rates, he wanted to suspend Britain's membership of the exchange rate mechanism (ERM) "as quickly as possible to stop the haemorrhaging of our reserves".

Former Conservative party chairman Sir Norman Fowler: "Relations between Major and Thatcher became very bad"
It was only at 5pm the decision was taken to suspend membership of the ERM - "hours too late", according to Lord Lamont.

Mr Major says: "I thought Norman was wrong about suspension and so did all the rest of our colleagues. He didn't advance a credible case for suspension. He didn't do it then and he didn't do it subsequently".

The latest revelations, coming on the eve of the Conservative Party conference, are part of a long-running dispute between Mr Major and Lord Lamont, both of whom will see their memoirs published this month.

Mr Major, who will not be at Blackpool next week, also admits in the BBC interview that he "let off steam" about predecessor Lady Thatcher to his former private secretary, the late Judith Chaplin.

In Mrs Chaplin's recently serialised diaries, she quotes Mr Major as saying of Lady Thatcher in 1991: "I want her isolated, I want her destroyed."

Former Cabinet minister Norman Fowler has backed Mr Major's version of events.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "During Black Wednesday John Major could not be fairly be criticised for dithering.
"My impression was of a man in control and a man who was calm in all the circumstances and who was making all the decisions."