Prescott delights left and right

Labour's high command yesterday backed away from open conflict with John Prescott following yesterday's Independent interview on the substance and style of New Labour change.

But the waves created by the deputy leader's forthright language - confirming that lots of MPs voted for shadow cabinet candidates "they couldn't stomach" - were welcomed by many traditionalist MPs who were content with Mr Prescott's "boat-rocking" protest.

A significant proportion of MPs, perhaps even a silent majority, share the deputy leader's view that Mr Blair has pushed party and policy change to the limits of endurance.

They are willing to suffer in silence in the interests of unity, but that does not mean they like it, and the row over Harriet Harman's choice of grammar school for her son showed there are limits to their patience.

Pouring oil on the troubled waters created by Mr Prescott, a leadership spokesman said: "Tony Blair himself has frequently spoken of the inevitable impact of modernisation on some in the party.

"The important point is that Labour is stronger, fitter, more democratic and more united and self-disciplined as a result of the changes which, on every occasion a vote has been taken, have been overwhelmingly endorsed by the membership."

But Mr Prescott's mainstream point appeared to be underlined by Doug Hoyle, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, who said that while colleagues had displayed unity by voting for the Shadow Cabinet as a whole, it might have included backing some candidates they did not like.

That element of the Prescott interview was belatedly picked up by the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo last night. He said: "It is an amazing state of affairs when you have a deputy leader of the Labour Party admitting they have voted for fellow colleagues whom they cannot stand.

"Why, then, should they expect the British people to vote for those whom even they cannot stand?"

Predictably, a number of "likely suspect" Labour MPs exploited Mr Prescott's remarks for their own critical purposes.

Alan Simpson, chairman of the left-wing Campaign Group of MPs, warned that Labour's popularity would be short-lived if it tied itself to Tory policies.

"The party would do well to heed what John Prescott is saying. We have the same back-room approach to fighting the next election as we had towards the last one.

"There's a perception we are trying to tie ourselves in very closely to where the Conservatives are in the hope we can just steal a march by cleverness.

"That didn't serve us well in the last two elections and we ought to be asking whether that is going to fare any better for the coming one.

"What Labour will discover very quickly is that if we change position without having a different agenda, that popularity is a short-lived one."

Letters, page 13


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage

nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PE Teacher, Full Time Role, Gillingham School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We are urgently seeking an exper...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Admin - £35,000 - 5 month FTC

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 5 month Fixed Term Contract - Telecommunicati...

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester is seeki...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London