Saturday, April 29, 2006

Prescott: Hypocrite or Cad?

John Prescott has been a very naughty sexagenarian. He has had a 2-year affair with his Diary Secretary, Tracey Temple (on the "up" side, from Labour's point of view, at least it was an affair with a woman). There is also another affair with a junior Minister who is apparently threatening to sue if her identity is revealed (anyone interested in finding out who she is should go to the Guido Fawkes blog). I am, however, unconvinced by the charge of hypocrisy. Yes, I know Prescott attacked the Major Government for sleaze - his 1996 Labour Conference speech, complete with joke about Shagger Norris's "chat up lines" is being widely quoted. But, let's face it, the Major Government (if not, to be fair, Steve Norris) asked for it, by going up and down the country banging on about "back to basics". Since becoming Deputy Prime Minister Prescott has not, so far as I am aware, made it his vocation to preach at us about our private lives. There is also something about the Prescott-baiting which sits uneasily with me. The Tory Boys hate him, with a venomous intensity which cannot be explained solely by Prescott's manifest failings: it is, I think, tribal(I think it is a hatred reciprocated - Prescott is not overly fond of Tory Boys - but I find that easier to understand). On the other hand, Prescott issued a statement in which he said he "regretted" the affair. This is a standard formulation in these circumstances, but it is so dismissive of the woman in question and - to use an old fashioned word - so dishonourable as to merit a more serious charge: the man is a cad. It seems Tracey Temple will have her revenge, however; she has been snatched up by Max Clifford and this guarantees widespread tabloid coverage. Then, of course, it cannot be long before the second woman's name becomes known, with further tabloid salivation. There is already speculation that Prescott could be forced to resign. I don't think what Prescott has done is a resigning matter; it doesn't bear on his Ministerial duties. Originally, I thought (on the "Palmerston principle") that the fact that a sixty-odd year old man had a late-thirtyish/early fortyish mistress might not do his reputation any harm (it's given me some encouragement); but I think I underestimated the power of ridicule. Will Prescott resign? I don't know; but it would be absolutely outrageous if he resigns and Charles Clarke survives.


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