British Politician Reveals Her Affair with Prime Minister John Major Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A conservative member of the British parliament, Edwina Currie published her memoirs in 2002, revealing that she had had a romantic affair with former prime minister John Major before working in his government. She served as junior health minister under Margaret Thatcher until she was forced to resign after claiming that British egg producers allowed salmonella to become widespread in Great Britain.

Summary of Event

The revelation of an affair between two members (MPs) of the British parliament, fourteen years after it ended, would hardly be considered scandalous in any country, except that one of the MPs, John Major, later became prime minister and was responsible for accepting the resignation of a number of his ministers whose romantic affairs were revealed while he was in office. Major’s affair with Edwina Currie also revealed the political danger faced by the prime minister, having to keep the affair secret. The affair is also significant, in retrospect, because it explains why Major was so reluctant at times to fire those ministers. [kw]Major, British Politician Reveals Her Affair with Prime Minister John (Sept. 28, 2002) Currie, Edwina Major, John Currie, Edwina Major, John [g]Europe;Sept. 28, 2002: British Politician Reveals Her Affair with Prime Minister John Major[03230] [g]England;Sept. 28, 2002: British Politician Reveals Her Affair with Prime Minister John Major[03230] [c]Publishing and journalism;Sept. 28, 2002: British Politician Reveals Her Affair with Prime Minister John Major[03230] [c]Sex;Sept. 28, 2002: British Politician Reveals Her Affair with Prime Minister John Major[03230] [c]Government;Sept. 28, 2002: British Politician Reveals Her Affair with Prime Minister John Major[03230] [c]Politics;Sept. 28, 2002: British Politician Reveals Her Affair with Prime Minister John Major[03230]

Currie first published her revealing diaries Diaries;Edwina Currie[Currie] about her affair with Major in serialized form in Times of London The Times of London, a newspaper not usually inclined to publish reports of lurid romantic affairs. She made a great deal of money from the serialization, which ran between September 28 and October 6, 2002, and the well-publicized book, Diaries, 1987-1992, which followed later that year. The diaries suggest a keen interest in making money, and a number of reviews took up this theme, questioning her motives. Some of these reviews were very hostile, although Currie herself was of the opinion that all publicity is good publicity.

Edwina Currie, c. 1986.

(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Currie was a junior minister for health in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Margaret [p]Thatcher, Margaret;and Edwina Currie[Currie] Thatcher’s government from 1986 to 1988. Currie was raised in an orthodox Jewish family, though later she distanced herself from any belief or practice of Judaism. A very gifted student, she won a scholarship to St. Anne’s College, Oxford University, to study chemistry, but she changed her major to philosophy, politics, and economics. She then earned a master of arts degree from the London School of Economics. As a student, she became politically active in the Conservative Party and later held a seat on the Birmingham City Council. She stood for the South Derbyshire parliamentary constituency in 1983 and was elected. She was soon offered a promotion by Thatcher.

While in office, Currie actively promoted improved screening services for cancer in women, particularly breast and cervical cancer. She was an outspoken proponent in this area and caught the public’s attention with her wit and assertiveness. It seemed that she had a good political career ahead of her. However, in 1988, she was forced to resign after she commented on the prevalence of salmonella Salmonella in eggs produced in Great Britain. Her statement led to a loss of confidence in the British egg industry. Thatcher, Margaret [p]Thatcher, Margaret;and Edwina Currie[Currie] Thatcher did not offer Currie a second chance at the job, but Major did when he became prime minister. He offered her a middle-ranking ministerial role, but she declined the offer.

The year 1988 also marked the time Currie and Major ended their four-year romantic affair. When the affair started, she was a back-bench MP and he was a government whip. During the period of the affair, she had several government jobs and he rose to become chief secretary to the treasury, which was a cabinet post. As such, it meant that Major had a security detail with him at all times. Currie claimed that the effort needed to carry out the affair with such a security presence was what finally led her to break off the affair. She claimed to have still loved him for some time after, and it appears they remained friends.

In her diaries, Currie identifies Major with the initial B, as he was the second man in her life. It was fairly obvious to readers who B really was, and she readily admitted his identity. Her diary is more a series of personal jottings than a considered piece of writing, and it is especially notable because of its character assassinations of fellow politicians. Even Currie’s lover receives a certain amount of criticism, and her husband, who had known nothing of the affair, is quickly dismissed in the diaries as well.

Later, Major claimed that he had told his wife, Norma, about the affair and that she had forgiven him. At the time of the disclosure, he commented that it was the one event in his life of which he was most ashamed and in most fear of being made public. When it was finally disclosed, he had long since ended his term as prime minister and was no longer active in politics, so it did little actual harm to his career. However, it did bring his family the shame of public ridicule. In office, he had the image of being decent and moral, but also one with a personality somewhat grey and lackluster.

Currie’s career as a politician stalled after the affair ended, though she managed to keep herself in the public eye by making speeches and helping raise funds on behalf of cancer research, especially for the charitable organization Marie Curie Cancer Care. In 1997, Currie lost her seat in Derbyshire to her Labour opponent but was promptly offered a job by the British Broadcasting Corporation as a late-night radio host for a new current-affairs program called Late Night Currie. This led to a television job with a commercial television company, HTV, from which she became a regular television personality. Her first marriage ended in 1997 and she remarried in 1999. She also became a prolific author of sex novels, including A Parliamentary Affair (1994), which are set in the world of politics.

Impact

The motives and timing of Currie’s revelations about her affair with Major were intensely scrutinized by the press. She said she published the diaries because she believed the truth had to come out. She also believed the diaries would not harm Major, and she hoped the diaries would provoke the Conservative Party to be more realistic in its moral stance. The party at the time had been struggling to modernize itself to match Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party government.

The press, however, latched on to statements in the diaries that suggested revenge at being completely left out of Major’s autobiography (2000) and for his failure to offer her a higher government post. The latter seems an unrealistic criticism of her work, however, because she had been offered a job that would have been a stepping stone to higher office. (She had criticized him heavily in the past for the poor representation of women in his cabinet.)

For Major, the revelations led him to reassess his life, but his autobiography does not give the slightest hint of the affair with Currie, or any relationship with her. Currie had the power to harm him at any moment during his tenure as prime minister, but she did not do so, choosing instead to wait until after his tenure ended to reveal their affair. Currie, Edwina Major, John

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clark, Alan. Diaries: In Power. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2003. Clark’s diaries recount the John Major and Margaret Thatcher years of government and give intimate details into the affairs and indiscretions of a number of ministers.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Currie, Edwina. Diaries, 1987-1992. London: Little, Brown, 2002. Currie’s memoirs, in which she exposes her affair with John Major and discusses her sense of betrayal for his failure to give her a government post or to mention her in his 2000 autobiography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Major, John. The Autobiography. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. Major’s autobiography, which fails to mention his relationship, sexual or otherwise, with Currie. Instructive for bringing readers to the period in question.

President Warren G. Harding’s Lover Publishes Tell-All Memoir

Sex Scandal Forces Resignation of Alberta Premier Brownlee

King Edward VIII Abdicates to Marry an American Divorcée

John Profumo Affair Rocks British Government

British Cabinet Secretary Parkinson Resigns After His Secretary Becomes Pregnant

Novelist-Politician Jeffrey Archer Wins Libel Trial Against the Daily Star

Japanese Prime Minister Sosuke Resigns After Affair with a Geisha

British Cabinet Member David Mellor Resigns over Romantic Affair

British Cabinet Member Resigns After Fathering a Child Out of Wedlock

British Politician Resigns After Gay-Sex Orgy

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Admits Affair with Secretary

Categories: History Content