John Prescott: Why Nick Clegg is like Jedward

The former Deputy PM shares his views on the House of Lords, Gordon and Tony, and political wives.

John Prescott is interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead in today's Guardian. In a characterstically frank and rambling interview, Prescott shares some of his colourful views on pay in the House of Lords, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband's leadership and that Moneysupermarket.com advert. Here are the highlights.

On the House of Lords:

Look, right, the MP gets a full wage throughout the year, he gets money for the secretary, he gets travel expenses, all them things. I get £150 a day, right? And no fucking secretary, right? Now I'm doing the same job! If I was a union official, I'd be bloody leading them out! Now, look, I don't mind doing a job, but pay me the same as what you pay others I'm working alongside. It drives me, in a way, into doing other work, which I've always been against and never done for 40 years.

On his reasons for the boxing advert:

I come to the Lords, and I've got a fucking part-time secretary! That's why I did the boxing advert. To get money for a secretary.

On Nick Clegg:

People have an opinion about Clegg, we all know he won the X Factor we call the general election, right? But we found with The X Factor, like, with the what do you call them? The Dead Beats? No, the Jedwards. People kept voting for them even though they were rubbish!

On AV – will it help to restore public trust and political accountability?

Absolute nonsense! And what's the other thing they say? "It'll bring in hard-working MPs." The buggers that say it are part-time themselves half the time! Cashing in on their expenses while telling us we need to reform? What a load of crap! Clegg can't even remember when he's at work!

On Ed Miliband:

Who? [before Aitkenhead specifies surname]

Look, I think he's got a difficult job. I always said I disagreed with his campaign, 'cos he talks as if there was no record. I think he's now put his jacket on, though, thank Christ. All this business of no tie, no jacket, I think that's wrong.

On Tony/Gordon:

I talk to Tony more than Gordon. But then Tony keeps in contact. Gordon switches off. I'm not going to tell you what I think about that, 'cos you'll bloody well print it.

I don't have to worry about what Gordon or Blair or whoever will think if I do this or that now. I'm speaking for JP now.

On political wives:

What is it with this wifeocracy? All the wives! Cherie Blair. Even Cameron's wife. They're all running round the fashion shops giving their political views. It's a wifeocracy! They're not elected by anybody! I mean, bloody hell, you've only got to talk about the Speaker's wife, haven't you? They only get on 'cos of who they're married to! They might not like this, but that's what it basically is.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.