John Prescott announces his intention to stand down as Deputy Leader in the next year. It didn’t come as a shock but it was the end of an era. I remember his first event as Deputy Leader. It was at the Hull West Labour Party family fun day. By a quirk of long term diary fate, the guest at the event was the new Leader, Tony Blair. I went up to help out a colleague at the event. I think it was at the dockers club.
These were the earliest days of new Labour. This was when you had to beg the club steward to move the drum kit off the stage rather than parachute an entire events team into a hall the size of an aircraft hangar. My colleague, who will remain nameless, even attempted to get the beer coolers turned off because they interfered with the sound feeds for the TV cameras. You can imagine what the answer was – chilled beer being far more important to people’s lives than the quality of the nine o’clock soundbite.
There was an incredible moment with John at conference this week. I was trying to extricate myself from an impromptu TV interview with Cathy Newman, the charmingly persistant political correspondent from Channel 4 news. At a similar moment my agent, his wife and beautiful baby daughter rounded a corner closely followed by friend and colleague Kali Mountford MP. All of them were talking to me at the same time about different things when JP himself entered the fray.
“Hello Tom” said he. “Are you going to resign again” he boomed out down the corridor. I was about to retort “Are you not going to resign again John” when Mrs Watson gave me a look that said remember he is the Deputy PM and that Ms Newman has a camera crew at her side, ready and poised to capture the event for the nation. I swallowed the words and escaped for a strong cup of coffee to recover.