It is almost a full decade since I first wrote that John Prescott was the best deputy leader in the history of the Labour party. That remains my view.
It is unusual for any columnist to open with a sentence that proclaims that either:
- the columnist himself is a complete fool, or
- the best that the political party, for which the columnist is a regular apologist, can do in terms of a deputy leader is a fucking stupid, inarticulate, sexually preditory boor.
Still, given that, you have to admire Roy's courage.
His strength lies in his attitude towards the job. Most of his predecessors - Herbert Morrison, Aneurin Bevan, George Brown, Denis Healey and that man whose name nobody now remembers - were failed leaders who won a consolation prize. Prescott values the job in its own right.
Prescott values his job because even he is surprised that he got it. He is a knave and fool.
He has, in consequence, been a proper (if slightly over-loyal) deputy. The undoubted errors, of which we have learned during the past couple of months, do not change that.
He has, consistently, behaved like a total fuckwit and scumbag. Just because we have learned about them over the last few weeks does not alter the fact that his incompetence, sexual shenanigans and idiocy has been going on for some years.
Happy though I am to enumerate the qualities and qualifications that Prescott brings to the office of deputy prime minister, I have never suggested that his value is even remotely related to what are crudely called "his working-class credentials". That suggestion, unhappily now made by his friends as well as his enemies, is equally patronising to the party and to Prescott himself. It is also offensive.
Good. Because, I would imagine that it is offensive to a good many decent, literate, hard-working, honest, working-class people who get on with their jobs without forcing their hands up the skirts of any woman that happens to come anywhere near them.
The definition of social status, as currently applied to Prescott by his detractors, is wholly unrelated to Karl Marx's view that class is determined by the nature of the relationship with capital. There is a clear implication that, unlike other politicians who have risen from modest (even humble) beginnings, Prescott still eats his peas off his knife and fans his tea with his cap.
There are very poor people who have class, and some very rich people who do not: haven't you ever heard the disparaging phrase nouveau riche, Roy? Of course class is not linked to capital per se. Prescott has a good deal of cash but, by virtue of his behaviour will remain for ever a despised, lower-class boor. And, yes, I mean lower-class, not working-class. In the same way that it does not buy happiness, money does not buy class.
The real objection to his occupancy of Dorneywood and his afternoon break on the croquet lawn was based on the feeling that people like him should not live in houses like that or spend their leisure hours on pastimes which are associated with the long, sunlit afternoon of Edwardian England. The humbug about Prescott receiving undiminished perks for a diminished job is camouflage.
No, it is not, Roy. Personally, I was happy—if immensely surprised—to see Prescott playing croquet (it's a fun, vicious, vindictive game: I'm sure that he took to it like a duck to water): on the other hand, he should no longer be in Dorneywood. If he had any class, Roy, he would have given it up when he was stripped of his department (and power) voluntarily; he would not have had to be forced into it by media opprobrium.
Michael Heseltine was a deputy prime minister without departmental responsibilities. Because he owned a rather better house, he chose not to use Dorneywood.
Heseltine is a shit; but what Roy is really getting at here is that Heseltine is an evil, rich man (publishing, I think) who had a better house and so decided not to sponge off the taxpayer. So, in fact, he chose to use his own resources in precisely the way that Prescott did not. And so, Roy darling, what is your point here?
But if he had been "caught" (that is the extraordinary word the critics used) playing croquet on a Thursday afternoon, he would not have attracted a similar campaign of vilification.
Yeah, yeah; can we leave the croquet, Roy. Everyone vilified Prescott because he is a deeply unpleasant individual and the taxpayers of this country were repulsed by the fact that they were paying for a man who is not so far away from being a rapist to live in the kind of luxury that they could only dream of.
I opened the door to Prescott and showed him in. It was the first time I'd met him. As he came through the door, he pushed me quite forcefully against the wall and put his hand up my skirt.
Or is that kind of behaviour perfectly OK in your world, Roy? Or this, Roy; is this OK?
She said yesterday: “He just leapt on me at one party and his tongue was halfway down my throat.”
Such was Prescott’s reputation, she said, that she resorted to wearing trouser suits to avoid his wandering hands in the lifts at his Westminster office. She added that she was too afraid to protest at the time for fear of losing her job.
Oh, yes, Roy; absolutely we are all shitting on Prescott because he is working-class and absolutely not because he is "a boastful, arrogant, nasty pig" with "no manners whatsoever" who should be on trial for sexual assault. What nasty people we all are, what filthy classist pigs: shall we flagellate ourselves in punishment, Roy, you fat, bigoted cunt?
Heseltine is a gent - Shrewsbury, Oxford. Houses like Dorneywood are his natural home.
Well, I don't know about him being a "gent", Roy, but yes, he is quite well-off. So?
You will recall that once upon a time, Nicholas Soames - a character not unlike Boy Mulcaster in Brideshead Revisited - used to refer to the deputy prime minister as "Giuseppe" and, claiming to mistake him for a waiter, order a gin and tonic. I always hoped that Prescott saw the inverted compliment that was buried in that attempt at wit. Nobody could possibly imagine Soames - a man born with his mouth crammed full of silver spoons - fighting his way up from ship steward to cabinet minister.
Look, just because "Fatty" Soames is an awful, old shit does not make Prescott any better, OK? And Fatty Soames may have had the Establishment, as you like to call it, but when Prescott was first elected in 1970, the unions held almost as much power—and considerably more votes in their control—as the so-called "toffs". Don't tell me Prescott "fought his way up"; he was helped by an immensely rich and powerful lobby (that was eventually to bankrupt Britain) who have always financed—and thus, quite as much as "big business" has, influenced the policies of—the Labour Party.
But whether or not the jibe hurt, its class overtones are beyond dispute. Do not tell me that the war is over. The establishment fights on with sneers dressed up to look like humour.
My dear Roy, the "establishment" always has. Who said that the war was over anyway? And why should we want it to be so? Should we all aspire to be a cunt like Prescott, or someone with the manners of the Queen? Just because Soames, and many others, is an arsehole it does not mean that all are. Although, most people in politics are pretty fucking awful, to be honest.
Living, as these days I do, in the country, I never had any doubt that the battle lines in the fox-hunting conflict were drawn along class boundaries.
Really, Roy? You know, I know people who live in the country and they are equally certain that class had little to do with it. Not unless you are saying that everyone who lives in the city is salt-of-the-earth working-class and everyone who lives in the country is an evil toff; it was quite clearly a city / country divide, not a class divide. Unfortunately, you are such a poisonous, fat fucker that you would be quite unable to see this. And if, as you imply, everyone who lives in the country is an awful upper-class type, then why do you live there? Or are you just bitter, Roy, because no one will invite you to their parties? Let me suggest that that is not because you are common (which you are), but because you are a cunt.
But it was not the abolitionists who waged war in those terms. It was the landowners who believed that the country - that is the country as a whole - belonged to them as it had belonged to their ancestors. And they were damned if they were going to allow the proletariat to tell them what they could and could not do on it.
Well, fucking right, Roy, actually: who are these people—one can hardly call them the proletariat when they are headed by Tony "Fettes" Blair and his ilk now, can we?—to tell landowners what they should do?
The same attitude motivates the proprietors of big estates who ploughed up their land rather than concede access under "right-to-roam" legislation. Sometimes they lost financially by the change of use. But they kept the yobs at bay.
Ah well, their choice, eh? Meanwhile, you let people wander through your garden do you, Roy? Perhaps even invite them into your front room for a cup of tea? Perhaps you'd care to give me your address so that I can come and pick your peonies?
I make no apology for being a class warrior in a non-combatant sort of way.
What you mean is that you are not going to apologise for writing a load of ignorant, hate-filled, bigoted bile while you blithely sit back, in your country house, berating the proles whilst drawing your big, fat MP's pension that is paid for by the same bastards that you revile. Fuck you, Roy, you turgid cunt: I hope you dribble to death.
The interests of the rich and poor rarely coincide. And, as John Rawls tells us, it is the duty, of democratic governments to "adjudicate between conflicting demands". That requires the government of the day to decide which side it is on and obliges the rest of us to make up our minds about which cause we support.
No, Roy, it requires the government of the day to ensure fairness and proceed in the way that will be most likely to enrich all of us; a government cannot be impartial if it is partisan.
I know where I stand.
So does everybody else: you are blocking the sun...
There is something inherently irrational, as well as fundamentally offensive, about the notion that a certain sort of person - habits as well as upbringing, tastes as well as education - has a right to rule and to the perks of ruling. Had I not been on John Prescott's side six weeks ago, I certainly would be now.
I don't know, Roy; I think that a good education and a basic grasp of fundamental principles—social, economical and political—is probably desirable in those who rule.
However, Prescott has one, and only one, saving grace: he has worked in manual jobs. Other than that, he is entirely unfit: he is an idiot, a bully, a violent sex-fiend and a mannerless oaf who disgraces this country wherever he goes. He is not fit to live, let alone rule, and only a hideous old bastard like you would ever defend this man.