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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Would you jump off a cliff if someone told you to? One time, I did

I was walking across the bridge in Matlock park, which is about 12 feet high, with a large group of other kids from my year, in the pouring rain.

Ever heard the phrase, “Would you jump off a cliff if they told you to?” It was the perpetual motif of my young teenage years: my daily escapades, all of which sprang from a need to impress a peer, were distressing and disgusting my parents.

At 13, this tomboyish streak developed further. I wrote urgent, angry poems containing lines like: “Who has desire for something higher than jumping for joy and smashing a light?” I wanted to push everything to its limits, to burst up through the ceiling of the small town I lived in and land in America, or London, or at least Derby. This was coupled with a potent and thumping appetite for attention.

At the height of these feelings, I was walking across the bridge in Matlock park, which is about 12 feet high, with a large group of other kids from my year, in the pouring rain. One of the cool girls started saying that her cousin had jumped off the bridge into the river and had just swum away – and that one of us should do it.

Then someone said that I should do it, because I always did that stuff. More people started saying I should. The group drew to a halt. Someone offered me a pound, which was the clincher. “I’m going to jump!” I yelled, and clambered on to the railing.

There wasn’t a complete hush, which annoyed me. I looked down. It was raining very hard and I couldn’t see the bottom of the riverbed. “It looks really deep because of the rain,” someone said. I told myself it would just be like jumping into a swimming pool. It would be over in a few minutes, and then everyone would know I’d done it. No one could ever take it away from me. Also, somebody would probably buy me some Embassy Filter, and maybe a Chomp.

So, surprising even myself, I jumped.

I was about three seconds in the air. I kept my eyes wide open, and saw the blur of trees, the white sky and my dyed red hair. I landed with my left foot at a 90-degree angle to my left ankle, and all I could see was red. “I’ve gone blind!” I thought, then realised it was my hair, which was plastered on to my eyes with rain.

When I pushed it out of the way and looked around, there was no one to be seen. They must have started running as I jumped. Then I heard a voice from the riverbank – a girl called Erin Condron, who I didn’t know very well. She pushed me home on someone’s skateboard, because my ankle was broken.

When we got to my house, I waited for Mum to say, “Would you jump off another cliff if they told you to?” but she was ashen. I had to lie that Dave McDonald’s brother had pushed me in the duck pond. And that’s when my ankle started to throb. I never got the pound, but I will always be grateful to Erin Condron. 

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser