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.