Former PM John Major launched a blistering attack on Boris Johnson over the sleaze miring the government yesterday.
Sir John left the door open for allegations of hypocrisy in 1993 when he launched a campaign promising to go ‘back to basics’, returning Britain to a more moral stance based on decency and respect for the law.
The drive became an object of ridicule over the following years as controversies erupted over extra-marital liaisons and paid lobbying.
Ironically, news of Sir John’s own four-year affair with fellow minister Edwina Currie did not emerged until 2002.
In his interview yesterday, Sir John said the difference between the 1990s and now was that he had taken action to stamp out abuses, creating the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life.
‘The striking difference is this: in the 1990s I set up a committee to tackle this sort of behaviour,’ he told the BBC.
‘Over the last few days we have seen today’s government trying to defend this sort of behaviour.
‘Sleaze is unacceptable, was unacceptable when I was there, and I suffered a great deal of pain and anguish over it. It’s unacceptable today, and it needs to be stopped.’
John Major (left) left the door open for allegations of hypocrisy in 1993 when he launched a campaign promising to go ‘back to basics’. David Mellor (right) was among the ministers who had to resign
David Mellor’s affair and Spanish holiday
In 1992 culture minister David Mellor was subject to kiss-and-tell revelations from actress Antonia de Sancha, with whom he had been having an affair.
The PM stood by his minister despite a series of lewd details emerging – which later turned out to have been made up by celebrity publicist Max Clifford.
However, it later emerged that Mona Bauwens, the daughter of a senior member of the Palestine National Fund, had hosted the Mellors for a family holiday to Marbella in Spain. He then quit in September 1992.
At the 1997 election BBC war correspondent Martin Bell (right) stood against Neil Hamilton (left) in Tatton as an anti-sleaze candidate, ejecting him from the Commons
In October 1994 the Tory government was left reeling by allegations that MPs had taken payments from businessman Mohammad Al-Fayed to ask questions in Parliament.
Neil Hamilton was forced to resign as a junior minister despite denying the allegation, and launched a libel action – which he later withdrew.
At the 1997 election former BBC war correspondent Martin Bell stood against Mr Hamilton in Tatton as an anti-sleaze candidate, ejecting him from the Commons.
The scandal led Sir John to set up the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life in a bid to clean up politics.
Mr Hamilton is now the leader of Ukip.
In 1995 the Guardian alleged that Jonathan Aitken (pictured), then Treasury Chief Secretary, had allowed aides of the Saudi royal family to pay his £1,000 hotel bill at the Paris Ritz two years earlier
Jonathan Aitken’s ‘sword of truth’
In 1995 the Guardian alleged that Jonathan Aitken, then Treasury Chief Secretary, had allowed aides of the Saudi royal family to pay his £1,000 hotel bill at the Paris Ritz two years earlier.
He sued the newspaper, famously vowing to ‘cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of fair play.’
But he admitted committing perjury after the paper produced evidence that showed he was lying in his evidence.
He was jailed for 18 months in 1999, and has since been ordained as a priest.