Breaking: John Prescott appears to back David Miliband, contrary to reports

Former deputy PM, loved in the Labour party, speaks out over the leadership

John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister who holds considerable sway in the Labour party, appears to be backing David Miliband for leader, contrary to reports. There has been speculation in Westminster over which leadership candidate is preferred by Prescott, who has so far refused publicly to endorse because he is running to be Treasurer of the party. But apparently after one claim at the weekend that he is backing Ed Miliband, Prescott has posted a some revealing words on his blog today:

I had a few calls yesterday asking me about a piece by Anne McElvoy in the Sunday Times which claimed that along with Neil Kinnock I was supporting Ed Miliband.

These interviews were conducted before the General Election and on the penultimate day of campaigning while Gordon Brown was still our leader and way before any candidate announced they'd be standing.

I've decided not to publicly endorse a candidate as I'm running for the post of Treasurer and if elected, would have to work with whoever becomes leader.

But what I can do is point people to this blog I posted after watching the leadership hustings on Sky News last Sunday.

Here's what I said:

"It's true that all candidates acknowledged our mistakes and made calls for change, consistent with traditional values in a modern setting.

"But whoever is elected leader to hold the Lib Con Coalition government to account and lead our party back to Government, will need to highlight Labour's achievements alongside their new progressive policy agenda and campaign hard to promote both.

"On this occasion, it seems the clearest defence of the Labour Government's real achievements over 13 years came from David Miliband.

"David said: "We have to defend it with an absolute passion because if we trash our record no-one's going to believe us in the future."

"David has also rightly made much of the importance of greater campaigning and organisation.

"So it would be good if all the candidates during future television debates and meetings make greater prominence of our achievements."

I still stand by these comments.

If I am right and Prescott is backing David Miliband, his support shows that the DM campaign has succeeded in broadening its base after an endorsement last week from Dennis Skinner. Like Skinner, Prescott is essentially an instinctive party tribalist and loyalist, ultimately concerned, his friends say, with who is best placed to beat the Tories. His influence on the party was demonstrated when he swung conference delegates round to back One Member One Vote in 1993.

Prescott has not publicly revealed who he backs. But this may be as close as we are going to get to an endorsement from the big man.

UPDATE: Jason Beattie referred to Prescott's probably backing of David on 5 September.

 

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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