Former Prime Minister John Major and his Conservative colleague Edwina Currie had a four-year love affair when serving as ministers, Mrs Currie said today.
The affair began in 1984 when Mr Major was a government whip and Mrs Currie a backbencher, she said in her diaries, which are being serialised in The Times newspaper.
It ended in 1988, shortly after Mr Major joined Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Mrs Currie, who now presents Late Night Currie on BBC Radio 5 Live, resigned as Health Minister later that year after she said most of Britain's egg production was infected with salmonella.
Mrs Currie told the paper she ended the affair in 1988 because: "We could not continue without risking discovery."
Lady Archer, the wife of disgraced Tory peer Lord Archer, said that she was surprised to learn of the affair. "I am a little surprised, not at Mrs Currie's indiscretion but at a temporary lapse in John Major's taste," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme
David Mellor, who was forced to resign from Mr Major's Cabinet after an extramarital affair, said that history may have been very different if Mr Major's relationship with Mrs Currie had become public while he was in office.
"Would it have been a good thing for the country if John Major's affair with Edwina Currie, when both of them were married, had been discovered, and John Major had not been committed to continue with his political career?" he asked on BBC Radio News.
"Of course there will be those who didn't think that John Major made much of a fist of being Prime Minister. There will equally be those who will think that without a reassuring figure like him the Tories would certainly not have won the 1992 election," Mr Mellor said
Mr Major's biographer Penny Junor admitted that she had had no inkling of the affair but said that she was not entirely surprised.
"He did go through a very tricky patch in his marriage with Norma. When I first knew him, which was in 1992, the marriage was not great," she told the Today programme.
"Norma didn't really enjoy politics, didn't enjoy the high profile, didn't enjoy London and had, over his years, kept herself tucked away in Huntingdon with the children."
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