John Prescott has announced that he is seeking nominations to become treasurer of the Labour Party when the newly elected MP for Birmingham Erdington, Jack Dromey, vacates the position at the conference in September.
It is a surprising decision on Prescott's part, considering he is nearly 72 and is expected to be named a life peer in Gordon Brown's forthcoming resignation honours list. The position of party treasurer is usually a stepping stone to greater prominence, Bevan, Callaghan and Foot all having contested it in their time, rather than a cushy retirement number for a former cabinet minister.
This is not an honorary title with attractive perks, but a challenging and relatively low-profile seat on the committee that must steer Labour back into power. Yet here is Prescott, putting himself forward for what could be the biggest challenge of his political career -- that of attracting donors to fill Labour's empty coffers.
The cost of this month's general election, in votes and in cash, will make the task very difficult.
There is no political or personal gain for Prescott in this position. It carries no salary. So we can only assume that his motives stem from loyalty to the party. Prescott has pointed out that he has long experience both in and out of government, and there's no doubt he would make an energetic fundraiser.
His own account of his activism during the election demonstrates that he is not ready to retire yet, and still has a vision for the future of the Labour Party:
During the general election I travelled 5,000 miles on my Prescott Express battle bus, campaigning for candidates in more than 70 constituencies . . . It became very clear to me during my journey that we have an enormous job to do in rebuilding our party, reconnecting with the electorate and getting Labour ready as an effective opposition party and the next government-in-waiting.
If he is successful in rejuvenating the party's finances, he will ensure that it won't be for just Jags and punches that he's remembered.