Current Affairs

John Prescott to step down

Tony Grew May 10, 2007
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The Deputy Prime Minister has announced his departure from office in an open letter to his constituents.

John Prescott, 68, has been the most colourful member of the Blair government. He also had a long track record of speaking up for gay rights.

In May 2006 he had the last of his departmental powers taken away, only weeks after the tabloids revealed his affair with his diary secretary, Tracey Temple.

He is reknowned for his mangled speech.

The Guardian parliamentary sketch writer Simon Hoggart once said that, “every time Prescott opens his mouth, it’s like someone has flipped open his head and stuck in an egg whisk.”

There was mild amusement in January when Mr Prescott revealed his exposure to gay men while working on a cruise ship in the 1950s.

He was speaking about his experiences as a crew member of the RMS Rangitata in 1957.

With his trademark clarity, Mr Prescott reminisced that, “the thing that struck me most was that when I joined it they didn’t sail out the North, they sailed out the South and there were a lot of gay guys on board and I was quite amazed at this.

“And I remember saying, spending three months on a voyage and there were ten gay guys in a room and I said, ‘I’m not staying in a room like this.’ Anyway I went in another room,” reports The Daily Mail.

The North/South comment seems to mean that the gay crew came from Southern England.

Last year the DPM spoke up for gay rights while standing in at Prime Minister’s Questions for Tony Blair.

Asked by the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson about the Sexual Orientation Regulations’ effect on religious people in Northern Ireland, Mr Prescott could not have been more eloquent in his defence of equality.

“I am not a religious man, but I always understood that religion was about tolerance. There is not much tolerance being shown in what the hon. Gentleman has said.

“It is a pity that we do not show more tolerance to different cultures and different religions. We would be a lot better off for it.”

Earlier this year it was announced that London’s Millennium Dome, owned by homophobic billionaire Philip Anschutz, will not play host to the UK’s first super-casino.

In July 2006, a scandal engulfed Mr Prescott over his undeclared stay on Mr Anschutz’s Colorado ranch.

Mr Anschutz has donated large sums of money to Colorado for Family Values, an organisation with explicitly homophobic views.

He is also a major patron of the Republican Party and funded “Amendment 2,” a voter initiated ballot to overturn gay rights in the state of Colorado.

He is also a major donor for the Institute for American Values, who campaign against single parent families.

As for Mr Prescott, he seems to have survived that scandal and his office affair to step down with honour.

A range of Labour MPs are standing for the deputy leader role.

Front-runners are Hilary Benn and Alan Johnson, and backbencher Jon Cruddas, junior minister Harriet Harman and party chair Hazel Blears are all candidates.

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