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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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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