The newspaper reported that the tape began with Michael Brunson, ITN's political editor, broaching the issue of holidays as he tried to mark time after his interview with the Prime Minister.
However, Mr Major was clearly intent on sticking to the issues. 'What I don't understand, Michael, is why such a complete wimp like me keeps winning everything?'
Brunson: 'You've said it, you said precisely that (in the interview) . . . it's a fair point. The trouble is that people are not perceiving you as winning.'
PM: 'Oh, I know . . . why not? Because . . . '
Brunson: 'Because rotten sods like me, I suppose, don't get the message clear.' (Laughs).
PM: 'No, no, no. I wasn't going to say that - well partly that, yes, partly because of S-H-one-Ts like you, yes, that's perfectly right.'
Brunson later suggested that the Prime Minister's problems had not been confined to Maastricht. '. . . you've also had all the other problems on top - the Mellors, the Mates . . . and it's like a blanket - you use the phrase 'masking tape' but I mean that's it, isn't it?'
Major: 'Even, even, even, as an ex-whip I can't stop people sleeping with other people if they ought not, and various things like that. But the real problem is . . .'
Brunson: 'I've heard other people in the Cabinet say, 'Why the hell didn't he get rid of Mates on Day One?' Mates was a fly . . . (sweeping his hand to his right). You could have swatted him away.'
Major: 'Yeah, well, they did not say that at the time, I have to tell you. And I can tell you what they would have said if I had. They'd have said, 'This man was being set up. He was trying to do his job for his constituent. He had done nothing improper.' As the Cabinet Secretary told me, 'It was an act of gross injustice to have got rid of him'.'
Then, Mr Major and Mr Brunson open their conversation about 'bastards', and the tape concludes with the question about the Lyndon Johnson maxim. What was not known until last night, however, was that another camera was still running, and the conversation concluded with the ITN reporter pointing out with a chuckle, 'If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow'.
Major: 'No, that's not what I had in mind, though it's pretty good.'