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.
Photo: Getty Images/AFP
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Why is the government charging more women for selling sex but turning a blind eye to buyers?

Since 2013, the number of women charged for selling sex gone up while the number of men charged for buying it has gone down.

It’s no surprise that prostitution policy is an area rarely visited by our legislators. It’s politically charged - a place where the need to prevent exploitation seemingly clashes head on with notions of liberal freedom; where there are few simple answers, a disputed evidence base, and no votes.

There’s also little evidence to suggest that MPs are different from the rest of the population - where one-in-ten men have purchased sex. It is little wonder therefore that our report on how the law should change, published in 2014, was the first major cross-party intervention on the subject in twenty years.

Some take the view that by removing all legal constraints, it will make the inherently exploitative trade of prostitution, safer. It’s not just me that questions this approach, though I accept that - equally - there’s no consensus that my preferred measure of criminalising the purchase of sex, while decriminalising the sale, would fundamentally change the scale of the problem.

Where all sides come together, however, is in the desire to see women diverted from the law courts. It is still possible for women (and it still is women; prostitution remains highly genderised) to go to prison for offences related to prostitution. Today, in 2015.

The total number of prosecutions for all prostitution offences in England and Wales has been decreasing since 2010, but not in a uniform fashion. This does not reflect a reduction in the size of the trade, or the violent nature of it.

There were once consistently more prosecutions for kerb crawling, profiting, and control of prostitution. But since 2013, there have been more prosecutions for soliciting or loitering than for profit from prostitution and kerb crawling each year.

In simple terms, offences committed by men with choice, freedom and money in their pocket are having a blind eye turned to them, while women are being targeted - and this trend is accelerating. In the law courts, and in prosecutions, it is the most vulnerable party in the transaction, who is taking the burden of criminality.

Take on-street sex buying as an example. In 2013-14 just 237 prosecutions were brought for kerb crawling, but there were 553 - more than twice as many - for loitering and soliciting.

There is a similar pattern in the 2014/15 figures: 227 charges for kerb crawling reached court, while 456 prosecutions were initiated against those who were selling sex. Just 83 prosecutions for control of prostitution, or ‘pimping’, were brought in that same year.

These are men and women on the same street. It takes a high level of liberal delusion to be convinced that prostitution is caused by a surge of women wishing to sell sex, rather than men who wish to buy it. And yet women who sell sex are the ones being targeted in our law courts, not the men that create the demand in the first place.

This situation even goes against the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) own guidance. They say:

“Prostitution is addressed as sexual exploitation within the overall CPS Violence Against Women strategy because of its gendered nature… At the same time, those who abuse and exploit those involved in prostitution should be rigorously investigated and prosecuted, and enforcement activity focused on those who create the demand for on-street sex, such as kerb crawlers.”

Why then, is this happening? For the same reason it always does - in our criminal justice system stigmatised, poor women are valued less than moneyed, professional men.

My debate in Parliament today raises these issues directly with the government ministers responsible. But to be honest, the prosecution-bias against women in the courts isn’t the problem; merely a symptom of it. This bias will only be tackled when the law reflects the inherent harm of the trade to women, rather than sending the mixed signals of today.

That’s why I welcome the work of the End Demand Alliance, composed of over 40 organisations working to end the demand that fuels sex trafficking and prostitution, advocating the adoption of the Sex Buyer Law throughout the UK.

This would criminalise paying for sex, while decriminalising its sale and providing support and exiting services for those exploited by prostitution. Regardless of these big changes in the law, I don’t see how anyone can support the current state of affairs where there are more prosecutions brought against women than men involved in prostitution.

The authorities are targeting women because they're easier to arrest and prosecute. It goes against their own guidance, common sense and natural justice.
And it needs to stop.

Gavin Shuker is MP for Luton South and chair of the All Party Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.