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 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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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.