Pauline Prescott backs her man in public at the ballot

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The Independent Online

Pauline Prescott backed her husband yesterday by appearing with him in public for the first time since the revelations about his affair with his Whitehall diary secretary.

The Deputy Prime Minister and his wife posed for photographers as they voted in the local elections in Hull near the constituency home where John Prescott confessed to his wife about the affair.

It was their first public outing since the story about his relationship with Tracey Temple, 43, appeared in a newspaper last Wednesday. Mrs Prescott's support for her husband was crucial in helping him survive the storm, and she and their two sons, David, a journalist, and Jonathon, a businessman, rallied behind him and told him to continue his career.

Mr Prescott is also set to speak out about his affair in a candid interview on BBC television on Sunday where he will take the blame for the relationship. He will also acknowledge that his actions damaged support for Labour at a critical time, just before the local elections.

"John is going to accept that he has been very stupid and will take his share of the blame for the way that has damaged Labour support," said a close ally. "He is going to accept that he has caused a lot of pain to his family and the party."

Mr Prescott had agreed to appear on the Sunday AM show hosted by Andrew Marr before the reports of his affair were published in newspapers. He was said to be keen to appear on the post-election programme to avoid Labour's expected loss of seats triggering a civil war between factions supporting Mr Brown and Mr Blair. Mr Prescott wanted to put himself forward as a unifying figure.

He is expected to review the media strategy with Mr Blair today after the dust settles from the election results. He could pull out of the AM show to avoid inflicting more damage on the party, but he is keen to resume his role as a peacemaker between the Brownites and the Blairites.

Some supporters of Gordon Brown are ready to call for Mr Blair to give a timetable for when he will step down. Left-wing Labour MPs are likely to call for Mr Blair to go immediately as a result of defeat in the elections.

Allies of Mr Prescott were also anxious to see him back in the spotlight to demonstrate that having accepted the blame for the damaging affair, he intends to draw a line under the allegations and get on with his cabinet career.

Ms Temple gave a graphic account in The Mail on Sunday last week of sex with the Deputy Prime Minister in his Whitehall office, and more extracts from her diary will be published this weekend. They do not contain damaging remarks by Mr Prescott about his cabinet colleagues, in spite of widespread rumours.

But there was more embarrassment yesterday when the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced it was holding workshops for staff to deal with "inappropriate behaviour in the workplace". In January, a Commons select committee reported bullying and intimidation by middle managers in his office. The Government said workshops were being held by the ODPM to ensure that staff were treated with dignity. Managers were being trained to deal with bullying and intimidation.

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