Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
21 September 2011

John Prescott: a Liberal Democrat role model?

The Lib Dems can learn from Prescott's anti-establishment stance.

By Mark Pack

Tuesday lunchtime at Liberal Democrat conference saw me speaking at an IPPR fringe meeting on what the Liberal Democrat future strategy should be. Reaching for a striking, memorable way to make my comments stick in people’s minds in amongst the excellent other speakers at the event such as Simon Hughes, I revived a parallel that I had briefly blogged about a few months back: John Prescott.

No great surprise really that in a room with several Labour members and national journalists, this time the line spread rather wider, with some good natured (I think!) banter from John Prescott himself on Twitter and a lengthy piece from theBBC.

The point, however, is a serious one. What Prescott managed to do very successfully as a backbencher in the last years of the Labour government was both be a member of a party in power and also be consistently anti-establishment, especially in his attacks on some in the financial sector – and his mobilising of public support behind his campaigns.

For a party such as the Liberal Democrats who have such a strong tradition of anti-establishment ideology and campaigning, pulling off that combination now is all the more important. Or as Party President Tim Farron put it in a debate later in the day, “Let us become the administration but never, ever the establishment”.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Whether it is traditional establishment forces in the financial sector wanting to see off banking reform, in the unelected House of Lords wanting to hold on to political power without that little matter of democracy or in a myriad of other places, the establishment forces are not defeated simply by having some different names on ministerial name plates.

Content from our partners
Railways must adapt to how we live now
“I learn something new on every trip"
How data can help revive our high streets in the age of online shopping

So sorry John, but I think I’ll be using your example again in future.

Mark Pack is co-editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and in his third decade of conference-attending.