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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“We can’t do this again”: Labour conference reactions to Jeremy Corbyn’s second victory

Overjoyed members, determined allies and concerned MPs are divided on how to unite.

“I tell you what, I want to know who those 193,229 people are.” This was the reaction of one Labour member a few rows from the front of the stage, following the announcement of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory at the Labour party conference. She was referring to support received by his defeated contender, Owen Smith, who won 38.2 per cent of the vote (to Corbyn’s 61.8 per cent).

But it’s this focus on the leader’s critics – so vehement among many (and there are a lot of them) of his fans – that many politicians, of either side, who were watching his victory speech in the conference hall want to put an end to.

“It’s about unity and bringing us all together – I think that’s what has to come out of this,” says shadow cabinet member and MP for Edmonton Kate Osamor. “It shouldn’t be about the figures, and how many votes, and his percentage, because that will just cause more animosity.”

Osamor, who is supportive of Corbyn’s leadership, is not alone in urging her colleagues who resigned from the shadow cabinet to “remember the door is never shut”.

Shadow minister and member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) Jon Ashworth – not a Corbyn loyalist, but focusing on making the shadow cabinet work together – shares the sentiment.

Standing pensively in front of the now-empty stage, he tells me he backs shadow cabinet elections (though not for every post) – a change to party rules that has not yet been decided by the NEC. “[It] would be a good way of bringing people back,” he says. “I’ve been involved in discussions behind the scenes this week and I hope we can get some resolution on the issue.”

He adds: “Jeremy’s won, he has to recognise a number of people didn’t vote for him, so we’ve got to unite.”

The former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, another MP on the NEC, is sitting in the audience, looking over some documents. She warns that “it’s impossible to tell” whether those who resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet would be willing to return, and is concerned about talent being wasted.

“We have a lot of excellent people in the party; there are new people now in the shadow cabinet who have had a chance to show their mettle but you need experience as well as ability,” she says.

Beckett, who has urged Corbyn to stand down in the past, hopes “everybody’s listening” to his call for unity, but questions how that will be achieved.

“How much bad blood there is among people who were told that there was plotting [against Corbyn], it’s impossible to tell, but obviously that doesn’t make for a very good atmosphere,” she says. “But Jeremy says we’ll wipe the slate clean, so let’s hope everybody will wipe the slate clean.”

It doesn’t look that way yet. Socialist veteran Dennis Skinner is prowling around the party conference space outside the hall, barking with glee about Corbyn’s defeated foes. “He’s trebled the membership,” he cries. “A figure that Blair, Brown and Prescott could only dream about. On average there’s more than a thousand of them [new members] in every constituency. Right-wing members of the parliamentary Labour party need to get on board!”

A call that may go unheeded, with fervent Corbyn allies and critics alike already straying from the unity message. The shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon is reminding the PLP that, “Jeremy’s won by a bigger margin this time”, and telling journalists after the speech that he is “relaxed” about how the shadow cabinet is recruited (not a rallying cry for shadow cabinet elections).

“If Jeremy wants to hold out an olive branch to the PLP, work with MPs more closely, he has to look very seriously at that [shadow cabinet elections]; it’s gone to the NEC but no decision has been made,” says Louise Ellman, the Liverpool MP and transport committee chair who has been critical of Corbyn’s leadership. “That might not be the only way. I think he has to find a way of working with MPs, because we’re all elected by millions of people – the general public – and he seems to dismiss that.”

“If he sees it [his victory] as an endorsement of how he’s been operating up until now, the problems which led to the election being called will remain,” Ellman warns. “If we’re going to be a credible party of government, we’ve got to reach out to the general electorate. He didn’t say anything about that in his speech, but I hope that perhaps now he might feel more confident to be able to change direction.”

Corbyn may have called for cooperation, but his increased mandate (up from his last stonking victory with 59.5 per cent of the vote) is the starkest illustration yet of the gulf between his popularity in Parliament and among members.

The fact that one attempt at a ceasefire in the party’s civil war – by allowing MPs to vote for some shadow cabinet posts – is in contention suggests this gulf is in danger of increasing.

And then where could the party be this time next year? As Osamor warns: “We should not be looking at our differences, because when we do that, we end up thinking it’s a good thing to spend our summer having another contest. And we can’t. We can’t do this again.”

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.