Prescott: `Too many toffs' in Britain `Too many toffs' in UK says Prescott

JOHN PRESCOTT re-entered controversy over class yesterday when he suggested that Britain had too many "upper toffs".

The Deputy Prime Minister also said he was proud to be working class and denied dismissing his origins.

His comments. came as he fielded questions during an hour-long stint on BBC Radio 2's Jimmy Young show. Asked if there were too many "upper middle- class toffs" in government Mr Prescott said: "There's too many upper toffs around generally, and I see them particularly in the Tory party."

Referring to his recent remarks about being middle class, he said: "I'm proud of being working class. I never ever thought I'd deny that and I don't. I was just indicating that we have all the kind of lifestyle that's more middle class than working class.

"But don't make no mistake about it, I'm proud of being working class, I'm not changing my attitude or culturing my voice or even getting my grammar correct."

Mr Prescott, a former ship's steward, also stuck up for his roots when he backed the idea of a statue of a merchant seaman taking up the bare plinth in Trafalgar Square.

"You have got admirals, why can't you have a merchant seaman? We are an island nation, we depend on them and sometimes we forget it and it would be nice to record their contribution to British greatness."

Mr Prescott said he had enjoyed standing in for Tony Blair while the Prime Minister was on holiday - but he would not want the top job permanently.

"I enjoy what I'm doing at the moment and I'm getting to the age where these kinds of ambitions are not in my mind."

He added: "I'm delighted to do this job, I'm proud to work with a guy like Tony Blair."

The Tories accused Mr Prescott of being "embedded in the old politics of class envy".

Shadow cabinet office minister Andrew Lansley said: "It is ironic that John Prescott should make these comments given that Labour is the party with the leader who went to the most expensive and exclusive private school in Scotland whereas William Hague went to a comprehensive school in a mining village in South Yorkshire.

"Was it not John Prescott who was accused by his own father of being `too middle-class' only a matter of weeks ago? It further shows how much John Prescott's politics are embedded in the old politics of class envy.

"When will John Prescott realise what the duties of Deputy Prime Minister are and stop making silly statements every time he appears in public."