Magazine threatens legal action against Major
John Major was today facing the threat of legal action from a magazine he successfully sued over claims that he had an affair with a Downing Street caterer.
Lawyers for the satirical magazine Scallywag said they were considering what action they could take following Mr Major’s admission that he had a four-year affair with former Tory MP Edwina Currie before he became Prime Minister.
And the woman to whom he was falsely linked – caterer Clare Latimer – last night accused Mr Major of using her as a “decoy” to draw attention away from his relationship with Mrs Currie.
In 1993 Mr Major served libel writs on Scallywag, New Statesman and Society magazines over articles linking him to Ms Latimer, who provided food and drinks for events at 11 Downing Street when he was Chancellor.
At the time, Mr Major argued that the accusations of adultery amounted to a serious attack on his reputation.
Last night lawyers for the now defunct Scallywag said the magazine’s publishers and the estate of its late editor were considering what action they could take following the disclosure of his affair with Mrs Currie.
Scallywag incurred financial losses in the settlement after Mr Major and Ms Latimer launched a libel action against the magazine, its printers and distributors.
Solicitor David Price told PA News: “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.
“The publishing company and the estate of the editor are considering whether to commence legal proceedings to recover losses and expenses caused by John Major’s original defamation claim.”
Mr Major, now 61, fiercely denied Scallywag’s allegations when they were published while he was on a trip to India.
Ms Latimer, 51, said last night that she was not surprised to learn that Mr Major had actually had an affair with somebody else.
She believed that he had deliberately allowed the rumours about his affair with her to circulate unchecked – even though they were having a devastating effect on her own life – to cover his real affair with Mrs Currie.
When the rumours first began, Mr Major was Chancellor of the Exchequer and the disclosure of his relationship with the flamboyant Mrs Currie could have destroyed his chances of succeeding Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister.
Ms Latimer said that she believed she had been singled out because she was sometimes alone with him at No 11 after receptions when she had done the catering.
“It was a very odd story because I knew I hadn’t had an affair with him, but there is no smoke without fire. I knew I was innocent and so therefore I assumed that he had had an affair with somebody,” she told ITV News.
“What I am thinking now is that there were rumours going round that he had had affair, so they looked closely into what was happening at that moment and they found me alone with him sometimes.
“Then when I think that rumour started moving forward I would possibly suggest that John Major didn’t try to end it because he knew that his name would be cleared which gave him free rein towards being Prime Minister.
“He has changed my life for ever. He ruined my life for five years. To him it was a one-day wonder. I think I have been used as a decoy and extremely unfairly.”
She said that when she finally broke down in tears at one event under the stress, Mr Major advised her to take her problems to his wife, Norma, to sort out and to “earn as much money as you can” from it.
“I went to John when it was all becoming really impossible for me. He just said ‘Look, if you’ve got problems go to Norma about it and earn as much money as you can out of it.’ I just found this a very strange reaction.”
Mr Major confirmed the affair after Mrs Currie, a former health minister, disclosed details in her diaries serialised in The Times.
In a statement to the paper he said it was the “one event in my life of which I am most ashamed”.