John Prescott

John Prescott

Infobox Deputy Prime Minister
honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable

name = John Prescott
honorific-suffix = MP

office = Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
term_start = 2 May 1997
term_end = 27 June 2007
primeminister=Tony Blair
predecessor = Michael Heseltine
successor = "Currently vacant"
office2 = First Secretary of State
term_start2 = 8 June 2001
term_end2 = 27 June 2007
predecessor2 = Michael Heseltine (none since 1997)
successor2 = "Currently vacant"
office3 = Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
term_start3 = 2 May 1997
term_end3 = 8 June 2001
predecessor3 = "New creation"
successor3 = "Office abolished"
constituency_MP4 = Hull East
majority4 = 11,747 (37.7%)
term_start4 = 18 June 1970
term_end4 =
predecessor4 = Harry Pursey
successor3 = Incumbent
birth_date = Birth date and age|1938|05|31|df=yes
birth_place = Prestatyn, Wales, UK
death_date =
death_place =
nationality = British
spouse =
party = Labour
relations =
children =
residence =
alma_mater = Ruskin College
University of Hull
occupation =
profession =
religion =

website =
footnotes =

John Leslie Prescott (born 31 May 1938) is a British Labour Party politician, former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Secretary of State and current Member of Parliament for the constituency of Hull East. He was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party after coming second in the Labour leadership election in 1994, and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister after Labour's victory in the 1997 General Election.

A former ship's steward and trade union activist, he was presented as the political link to the working class in a New Labour party led by modernising middle class professionals. Prescott had overcome the handicap of failing his grammar school entrance Eleven Plus examination, to graduate from Ruskin College in Oxford. Prescott also developed a reputation as a key conciliator in the often tense relationship between the two other senior figures in government, then chancellor Gordon Brown and former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

On 27 June 2007, he resigned as Deputy Prime Minister, to coincide with the resignation of Prime Minister Tony Blair. Following an election within the Labour party he was replaced as deputy leader of the party by Harriet Harman, though his former government post of Deputy Prime Minister was not assigned to any minister. On 27 August 2007, he announced that he would not stand for re-election as an MP at the next election. [cite web|url=|title=John Prescott to stand down as MP|publisher=BBC|date=2007-08-27|accessdate=2007-08-27]

Early life

The son of a railway signalman (and Labour councillor) and grandson of a miner, Prescott was born in Prestatyn, Wales. He left Wales in 1942 at the age of four and was brought up initially in Brinsworth in South Yorkshire, England. He attended Brinsworth Primary School, where he sat but failed the Eleven Plus examination in 1949. Shortly after, his family moved to Upton, Cheshire and he went to school in nearby Ellesmere Port, where he attended Grange Secondary Modern School. [cite web|url=|title=My love letter was sent back, spelling corrected|publisher=Times Online|date=2008-05-25|accessdate=2008-05-25] He became a steward and waiter in the Merchant Navy, thus avoiding National Service, working for Cunard, and was a popular left-wing union activist. Prescott's time in the Merchant Marine included a cruise from England to New Zealand in 1957. [cite web | url= | title=Prescott at Your Service | publisher=BBC Radio 4 | accessdate=2007-02-04] [cite news | url= | title=When Prescott Served Eden | date= 25 January 2007 | publisher= BBC News] Among the passengers was Sir Anthony Eden, recuperating after his resignation over the Suez Crisis. Prescott reportedly described Eden as a "real gentleman". Apart from serving Eden, who stayed in his cabin much of the time, Prescott also won several boxing contests, at which Eden presented the prizes. He then went to the independent Ruskin College in Oxford, which specialises in courses for union officials, where he gained a diploma in economics and politics. In 1968, he obtained a BSc in economics and economic history at the University of Hull.

Member of Parliament

He returned to the National Union of Seamen as a full-time official before being elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Hull East in 1970, succeeding Commander Harry Pursey, the retiring Labour MP. The defeated Conservative challenger was Norman Lamont. Previously, he had attempted to become MP for Southport in 1966, but came in second place, approximately 11,200 votes behind the Conservative candidate. From 1974 to 1979, he concurrently served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and Leader of the Labour Group, when its members were nominated by the national Parliaments. In 1980 he was offered a European Commissioner post but turned it down.

Prescott held various posts in Labour's Shadow Cabinet, but his career was secured by an impassioned closing speech in the debate at the Labour Party Conference in 1993 on the introduction of "one member, one vote" elections for the party leadership that helped swing the vote in favour of this reform. Prescott became deputy leader with the first leadership vote under the new system following the death of John Smith in 1994.

Deputy Prime Minister

With the election of a Labour government in 1997, Prescott was made Deputy Prime Minister and given a very large portfolio as the head of the newly created Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions. In July 2001, an Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) was created to deal with the areas under his responsibility. [cite web | title = The office of Deputy Prime Minister | url = | format = pdf | publisher = House of Commons | accessdate = 2006-07-18] This new office was originally part of the Cabinet Office, but became a department in its own right in May 2002 when it absorbed some of the responsibilities from the former Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

In the United Kingdom, the title "Deputy Prime Minister" is used only occasionally and confers no constitutional powers (in which it is similar to the pre-20th century usage of Prime Minister). The Deputy Prime Minister stands in when the Prime Minister is unavailable, most visibly at Prime Minister's Questions, and Prescott has attended various Heads of Government meetings on behalf of Tony Blair. [cite web | title = Bilateral Meeting Of The Prime Minister Of The Republic Of Poland With The Deputy Prime Minister Of Great Britain | url = | format = HTML | publisher = The Chancellery of the Prime Minister (Poland) | accessdate = 2006-06-09]

Since the Deputy Prime Minister draws no salary, Prescott's remuneration was based on his position as Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions until 2001. This "super department" was broken up, with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Transport established as separate entities. Prescott was given the official title First Secretary of State and whilst continuing to head smaller department of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister — responsible for local and regional government, housing, communities and the fire service.


The UK played a major role in the successful negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and Prescott led the UK delegation at the discussions. [cite news | url = | publisher = Guardian Unlimited | date = 1 June 2002 | title = Hopes for Kyoto rise after Japan and EU ratify treaty | author = Paul Brown | accessdate = 2008-10-01] [cite news | url = | publisher = Guardian Unlimited | date = 1 June 2006 | title = Prescott's highs and lows | author = Stephen Habberley | accessdate = 2008-10-01]

In May 2006, in recognition of his work in delivering the Kyoto Treaty, Tony Blair asked Prescott to work with the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for the Environment on developing the Government's post-Kyoto agenda. [cite web | url= | publisher=10 Downing Street | accessdate= 2006-01-13 | title=John Leslie Prescott | ]


Integrated transport policy

On coming to office, Prescott pursued an integrated public transport policy. On 6 June 1997 he said: "I will have failed if in five years time there are not... far fewer journeys by car. It's a tall order but I urge you to hold me to it." [cite web |url= |title = ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS, RELATING TO TRANSPORT The Secretary of State was asked |publisher=Hansard | date=1998-10-20] However, by June 2002, car traffic was up by 7%. This prompted Friends of the Earth’s Tony Bosworth to say "By its own test, Government transport policy has failed". [ [ Friends of the Earth - Transport policy fails the Prescott test] ]

Prescott had success in focusing attention on the role of car usage in the bigger environmental picture and the need for effective public transport alternatives if car volume is to be reduced. The subsequent debate on road pricing evolved from his policy. A contrast was highlighted between Prescott's transport brief and an incident, in 1999, when an official chauffeur-driven car was used to transport Prescott and his wife Convert|250|yd|m from their hotel to the venue of the Labour Party Conference, where Prescott gave a speech on how to encourage the use of public transport. Prescott explained, "Because of the security reasons for one thing and second, my wife doesn't like to have her hair blown about. Have you got another silly question?" [" [ Prescott walks it like he talks it] ", "BBC", 30 September 1999]

Rail regulation

Prescott had a stormy relationship with the privatised railway industry. He had vigorously opposed the privatisation of the industry while the Labour Party was in opposition, and disliked the party's policy, established in 1996 just before the flotation of Railtrack on the London Stock Exchange, of committing to renationalise the industry only when resources allowed, which he saw as meaning that it would never be done. Reluctantly, he supported the alternative policy, produced by then shadow transport secretary Clare Short, that the industry should be subjected to closer regulation by the to-be-created Strategic Rail Authority (in the case of the passenger train operators) and the Rail Regulator (in the case of the monopoly and dominant elements in the industry, principally Railtrack). The policy was spelled out in some detail in the Labour Party's statement in the June 1996 prospectus for the sale of Railtrack shares, and was widely regarded as having depressed the price of the shares.

In 1998, Prescott was criticised by investors in the railway for his statement - at the Labour Party conference that year - that the privatised railway was a "national disgrace". The companies felt that they had had some considerable successes in cutting costs and generating new revenues in the short time since their transfer to private sector hands, and that the criticisms were premature and unfair.Fact|date=July 2007

In that speech, Prescott also announced that he would be taking a far tougher line with the companies, and to that end he would be having a "spring clean of the regulators".citequote This meant that the incumbent Director of Passenger Rail Franchising - John O'Brien - and the Rail Regulator John Swift QC - both appointed by the previous Conservative government, would have to make way for new Labour appointees. In February 1999, the regulation of the passenger rail operators fell to Sir Alastair Morton,Sir Alastair Morton left office, early, in October 2001. Tom Winsor continued until the end of his five-year term in July 2004.] who Prescott announced would be appointed as chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, which would take over from the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising whose office would be wound up. In July 1999, the new Rail Regulator appointed by Prescott was Tom Winsor.Sir Alastair Morton left office, early, in October 2001. Tom Winsor continued until the end of his five-year term in July 2004.] They shared Prescott's view that the railway industry needed a considerable shake-up in its institutional, operational, engineering and economic matrix to attract and retain private investment and enable the companies within it to become strong, competent and successful.

Local and regional government

Responsible for local government, Prescott introduced a new system guiding members' conduct after 2001. The new system included a nationally agreed Code of Conduct laid down by Statutory Instrument which all local authorities were required to adopt; the Code of Conduct gives guidance on when councillors have an interest in a matter under discussion and when that interest is prejudicial so that the councillor may not speak or vote on the matter. Although on many areas councillors had previously been expected to withdraw where they had declared an interest, the new system made the system more formal and introduced specific sanctions for breaches; it was criticised for preventing councillors from representing the views of their local communities. [cite news | url = | title = Christopher Booker's notebook | author = Christopher Booker | publisher = Daily Telegraph | date = 26 February 2006 | accessdate = 2008-10-01]

Prescott supported regional government in England. Early in his term, he introduced regional assemblies (consisting of delegates from local authorities and other regional stakeholders) to oversee the work of new Regional Development Agencies in the regions of England. Following Labour's second election victory, he pressed for the introduction of elected regional assemblies, which would have seen about between 25 – 35 members elected under a similar electoral system to that used for the London Assembly. However, due to opposition, the government was forced to hold regional referendums on the change. The first three were intended to be in the North-East, North-West and Yorkshire and Humberside. The North-East referendum in November 2004 was first (where support was felt to be strongest) but resulted in an overwhelming vote of 78% against. As a consequence, the plan for elected regional assemblies was shelved.


A rising number of households (especially in the south-east) was putting added pressure on housing during Prescott's tenure as the minister responsible. An increase in the housebuilding was proposed, primarily on "brownfield" sites, but also on some undeveloped "greenfield" areas and as a result he was accused of undermining the Green Belt. In January 1998 Prescott said in a radio interview that "The green belt is a Labour achievement; and we intend to build upon it" [cite news | url= | title=Planning | publisher=Hansard | date=3 February 1999 : Column 996] - an accidental double entendre that was typical of Prescott's famously garbled speaking.

In the north of England, Prescott approved the demolition of some 200,000 homes that were judged to be in "failing areas" as part of his "Pathfinder" regeneration scheme. It has been argued that renovating properties, rather than demolishing them, would have made better financial and community sense. [cite news | url= | title=Has John Prescott got his sums right? | publisher=Daily Telegraph | author=Charles Clover | date=16 May 2005]

Opposition to education reforms

On 17 December 2005, Prescott made public his disapproval of Tony Blair's plans to give state schools the right to govern their finances and admission policies and to increase the number of city academies. It was the first policy stance that Prescott had made against Blair since his election as leader in 1994. Prescott said that the move would create a two-tier educational system that would discriminate against the working class. [cite news | url = | publisher = The Independent | date = 17 December 2005 | title = Prescott hits out over 'great danger' from Blair's school reforms | author = Francis Elliot |accessdate = 2008-10-01] He added that Labour were "always better fighting class". [cite news | url = | title = Class war: Prescott attacks Blair's education reforms and Cameron's 'Eton Mafia' | author = Patrick Hennessy and Melissa Kite | publisher = Daily Telegraph | date = 19 December 2005 | accessdate = 2008-10-01]

Links with the grass roots

Prescott, sometimes described as "an old-school unionist", kept in touch with the views of the traditional Labour voters throughout his career. He became an important figure in Tony Blair's "New Labour" movement, as the representative of 'old Labour' interests in the Shadow Cabinet and subsequently around the Cabinet table as Deputy Prime Minister.

However, now a member of the establishment, relationships with the grass roots were not always smooth. Whilst attending the BRIT Awards in 1998, Chumbawamba vocalist Danbert Nobacon poured a jug of iced water over Prescott, saying, "This is for the Liverpool Dockers". [cite news | url= | title=Soaked Prescott Rages At Pop Band | publisher=Evening Standard | date=10 February 1998] [cite news | url=,,4-2006150548,00.html | title=Brits to go live again | publisher=The Sun] (Dock workers in Liverpool had been involved in a two-year industrial dispute: a strike that had turned into a lockout, until a few weeks earlier.) A reporter from the "Daily Mirror" threw water over Nobacon the following day. [cite news | url= | title=Four claret gold! Burnley's soccer-mad pop anarchists who fly first-class | publisher=Lancashire Evening Telegraph | date=3 June 1998]

Abolition of department

In a Cabinet reshuffle on 5 May 2006, Prescott's departmental responsibilities were transferred to Ruth Kelly, as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, following revelations about his private life and a poor performance by Labour in UK local elections. He remained as Deputy Prime Minister, with a seat in the Cabinet, and was given a role as special envoy to the Far East.cite news | url=,,2087-2168926.html | title=Prescott the predator keeps his spoils | publisher=Sunday Times | date=7 May 2006 | author=Isabel Oakeshott]

The press speculated on 9 July 2006 that, as a consequence of the continuing problems centred on Prescott, Blair was preparing to replace him as Deputy Prime Minister with David Miliband MP, whilst possibly retaining Prescott as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, [cite news | url=,,2087-2261991,00.html| title=No. 10 lines up Miliband for Prescott job | publisher=Sunday Times | date=9 July 2006] but nothing came of this.

Announcement of retirement

On 28 September 2006, at the Labour Party conference in Manchester, John Prescott apologized for the bad press he had caused for the party during the previous year. He said: "I know in the last year I let myself down, I let you down. So Conference, I just want to say sorry." He confirmed he would stand down as Labour's deputy leader when Tony Blair leaves Downing Street. [cite news | url=| title=Prescott tells Labour: I'm sorry | publisher=BBC News | date=28 September 2006] On 30 January 2007, he announced in the House of Commons that "I'm in a rather happy demob stage" in a combative performance. [cite news | url=| title=I'm 'demob happy', says Prescott| publisher=BBC News | date=31 January 2007]

Within 30 minutes of Tony Blair announcing his impending resignation on 10 May 2007, Prescott announced that he was standing down as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. At the special Labour Party conference at which Gordon Brown was formally elected (and Harriet Harman succeeded Prescott as Deputy Leader), Prescott received a prolonged standing ovation from the Labour Party members present, in recognition of his years of service to the party.

Life after government

Following his resignation, it was announced that he would take over from Tony Lloyd as the lead UK representative in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The post is unpaid but with expenses and allows him to sit on the Assembly of Western European Union. Shadow Europe minister Mark Francois wished the translators good luck. [cite news | url=| title=Prescott in Council of Europe job | publisher=BBC News | date=4 July 2007]

He has stated he will stand down as an MP at the next general election and is expected to become a Lord. He has also engaged in the campaign against slave labour which he intends to make a key issue in his work at the Council. [cite news | url = | title = Prescott to stand down at election and focus on Council of Europe role | publisher = The Independent | date = 23 August 2007 | accessdate = 2008-10-01]

Prescott is a member of the board of Super League rugby league club Hull Kingston Rovers who are based in his constituency of East Hull.cite web|url=|title=Prescott handed role at Hull KR|publisher=BBC|date=2007-10-18|accessdate=2007-10-18]

His autobiography, "Prezza, My Story: Pulling no Punches" [Headline: ISBN 9780755317752.] ghostwritten by Hunter Davies, [ [ The Bookseller: "Have they got books for you"] .] was published on 29 May 2008.

In June 2008, he made a cameo appearance, playing a policeman, in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Robert Tressell's "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists".

Health concerns

On 2 June 2007 he was admitted to hospital after being taken ill on a train from his constituency in Hull to London King's Cross. [cite web
url =
title = Prescott admitted into hospital
work = BBC News Online
publisher = BBC
date = 5 June 2007
accessdate = 2008-10-07
] He was later diagnosed with pneumonia and was treated at University College Hospital, London. He was moved to a high-dependency ward on 5 June 2007 so he could be monitored more closely because of his age and the fact he suffers from diabetes. [cite web
url =
title = Prescott suffering from pneumonia
work = BBC News Online
publisher = BBC
date = 5 June 2007
accessdate = 2008-10-07
] On 6 June 2007 it was reported in the media that his condition was stable and that he was sitting up and "joking" with hospital staff. [cite web
url =
title = Prescott's sixth day in hospital
work = BBC News Online
publisher = BBC
date = 7 June 2007
accessdate = 2008-10-07
] He was subsequently released from hospital on 10 June 2007 to continue his recovery at home. [cite news | last = Woodward | first = Will | url = | title = Prescott released from hospital | date = 11 June 2007 |work = The Guardian | accessdate = 2008-10-07]

In April 2008, Prescott announced he has the eating disorder bulimia nervosa, which he believed was brought on by stress since the 1980s. [cite news | title=Prescott tells of bulimia battle | url= | work=BBC News | date=20 April 2008 | accessdate=2008-04-20]

Criticism and controversies

Prescott has been involved in a number of controversies and incidents that have caused public concern and widespread media interest. When a farmer threw an egg at him during the 2001 general election, Prescott responded with a punch. In 2003 he was forced to repay council tax paid for by the public purse. There have been various controversies over sexual infidelities and harassment allegations. He was criticised for maintaining the benefits of Deputy Prime Minister despite losing his department in 2006. He has been attacked for visiting the American billionaire Phil Anschutz who was bidding for the government licence to build a super casino in the UK, and questioned over his involvement in the business of his son Johnathan Prescott. He was photographed playing croquet at his then "grace and favour" home Dorneywood on an away day, for which he was mocked in the media - in part because the game was so divorced from his working-class roots. Prescott was fined for speeding in July 1988, March 1989, January 1991 and January 1997. The last conviction related to an offence on 28 December 1996, when he was found to be driving at 80 mph on the M62 at a time when police recommended a 30 mile per hour limit due to ice; he was fined £40 and given three penalty points on his driving licence. ["80mph Prescott fined", "Sunday Times", 5 January 1997, p. 2; Guy Patrick, "Cops nick speeding Prescott", "News of the World", 5 January 1997, p. 9]

He has gained a reputation in the British press for confused speech, mangled syntax and grammar. The "Guardian" columnist Simon Hoggart once commented:"Every time Prescott opens his mouth, it's like someone has flipped open his head and stuck in an egg whisk." [cite news | url=| title= John Prescott: An Upstanding Member of UK PLC | date= 28 April 2006 | publisher= The Friday Project] An oft-quoted but unverified story in Jeremy Paxman's "The Political Animal" is that, before being accepted as transcribers to the Parliamentary record the "Hansard", applicants must listen to one of Prescott's speeches and write down what they think he was trying to say.

The media have attached various nicknames to John Prescott during his political career. Originally, Prescott's nickname was simply "Prezza", [cite news | url=,,2087-2261946,00.html| title= Prezza's big gamble on Dome billionaire | date= 9 July 2006 | publisher= The Times] but as various misfortunes befell Prescott the soubriquets became more colourful leading to "Two Jags" [cite news | url=| title= 'Two Jags' Prescott in parking row | date= 27 July 2001 | publisher= The BBC] (Prescott owns one Jaguar, and had the use of another as his official ministerial car). Later versions of this term are "Two Jabs" [cite news|url=| title= Prescott punches protester | date= 16 May 2001 | publisher= BBC News] (following his retaliation against a protester farmer in 2001); "Two Shags" [cite news | url=,,2-2006200584,00.html| title= Two Shags has two inches | month= April | year= 2006 | publisher= The Sun] (in reference to his affair with his diary secretary, Miss Tracey Temple); and "Two Shacks" [cite news | url = | title = 'Two Shacks' Prescott | date = 1 June 2006 | publisher = Guardian Unlimited | accessdate = 2008-10-01] (referring to his former country house). "The Independent" has since referred to Prescott as "No Jobs" [cite news | url = | title = Another sacked minister holds on to his residence | date = 24 May 2006 | publisher = Independent Online | accessdate = 2008-10-01] when he lost his department in a cabinet reshuffle following exposure of his affair, despite keeping the benefits and residences associated with his title, now a sinecure.


*"Punchlines: A Crash Course in English with John Prescott" by Simon Hoggart (Pocket Books, 2003) ISBN 0-7434-8397-9
*"Fighting Talk: Biography of John Prescott" by Colin Brown (Simon & Schuster, 1997) ISBN 0-684-81798-5
*"Prezza: My Story: Pulling No Punches" by John Prescott (Headline, 2008) ISBN 978-0-755-31775-2

ee also

*Cabinet of the UK
*Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom


External links

* [] – Prescott's political blog
*Wayback| – profile at 10 Downing Street website
* [ BBC Profile]
* [,9290,-4254,00.html Guardian Unlimited Politics - Ask Aristotle: John Prescott MP]
* [ - John Prescott MP]
* [ Mr Prescott and his gaffes]
* [ Prescott admitted to hospital]
* [ Prescott 'sitting up and joking']
* [,_John/ Open Directory Project — John Prescott] directory category

###@@@KEY@@@###Incumbent succession box
before=Harry Pursey
title=Member for Hull East
succession box
before=Margaret Beckett
title=Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
after=Harriet Harman


NAME= Prescott, John Leslie
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1997-2007)
DATE OF BIRTH= 31 May 1938
PLACE OF BIRTH= Prestatyn, Wales, UK

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