Prime Minister John Major faced further acrimony within his Conservative Party on Sunday after the press published an off-the-record conversation in which he insulted three Cabinet colleagues.
The flap came at the end of a trying week in which Tory rebels joined opposition forces in Parliament to try to derail the Maastricht Treaty on European union. Major had to threaten a national election to restore party discipline and crush the mutiny.
After a television interview Friday, Major chatted off-camera with an Independent Television News correspondent, unaware that the sound recorder had been left on.
Responding to a question regarding three Cabinet members who reportedly threatened to resign if Major buckled under to demands that a “social charter” be included in the Maastricht Treaty, Major said: “Where do you think most of this poison is coming from? From the dispossessed and the never-possessed. You can think of ex-ministers who are going around causing all sorts of trouble.
“We don’t want another three more of the bastards out there.”
The frank words appeared in the Observer newspaper, which had obtained a tape recording of the exchange.
When negotiating the treaty in December, 1991, Major had won Britain’s exclusion from the “social charter,” which guarantees certain worker rights.