John Major denies "bucket of shit" story

The famed exchange with Kelvin MacKenzie never took place, says the former PM.

Appearing before the Leveson inquiry, John Major has just denied that former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie ever uttered the famous words: "I've got a bucket of shit on my desk, prime minister, and I'm going to pour it all over you."

In his own appearance at the inquiry, MacKenzie told Robert Jay QC (see video, below) that the alleged exchange took place after Major phoned him following the UK's exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism on "Black Wednesday" in 1992.

But his account was contradicted by Major, who said: "Perhaps my memory is very faulty indeed but I certainly don't recollect the same conversation that has been circulated".

"There are more myths about Black Wednesday than the Greeks ever created," he wryly added.

Both men were, of course, under oath, so who's telling the truth?

Former British Prime Minister John Major arrives to give evidence at the Leveson inquiry. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

A second referendum? Photo: Getty
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Will there be a second EU referendum? Petition passes 1.75 million signatures

Updated: An official petition for a second EU referendum has passed 1.75m signatures - but does it have any chance of happening?

A petition calling for another EU referendum has passed 1.75 million signatures

"We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum," the petition reads. Overall, the turnout in the EU referendum on 23 June was 73 per cent, and 51.8 per cent of voters went for Leave.

The petition has been so popular it briefly crashed the government website, and is now the biggest petition in the site's history.

After 10,000 signatures, the government has to respond to an official petition. After 100,000 signatures, it must be considered for a debate in parliament. 

Nigel Farage has previously said he would have asked for a second referendum based on a 52-48 result in favour of Remain.

However, what the petition is asking for would be, in effect, for Britain to stay as a member of the EU. Turnout of 75 per cent is far higher than recent general elections, and a margin of victory of 20 points is also ambitious. In the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland, the split was 55-45 in favour of remaining in the union. 

Unfortunately for those dismayed by the referendum result, even if the petition is debated in parliament, there will be no vote and it will have no legal weight. 

Another petition has been set up for London to declare independence, which has attracted 130,000 signatures.