Labour in Blackpool: Prescott attacks 'despicable lying Tories'

JOHN PRESCOTT brought the Labour conference to its feet on the closing day with a mixture of anti-Tory knockabout and a reaffirmation of his socialist faith.

Mr Prescott, the deputy leader, said that public ownership was 'an essential and fundamental part' of that faith, although he only referred to the need for a publicly owned Post Office and railway network.

'Tony (Blair) has given us the crucial task of consulting and campaigning on our aims and objectives. The new statement that Tony and I will be submitting to the National Executive Committee will offer us an unrivalled opportunity to take the debate on Labour's unshakeable principles out into the country, into every home and every workplace.'

Declaring that Labour was 'on the road to government', he appealed to every party member to recruit another one. Politics should be made accessible with less of the feel of 'dreary' committee meetings, he said.

Delighting delegates with a rumbustious attack on the Conservatives, Mr Prescott said it was a 'great day to end a great conference'. It had readied the party for power and 'served a notice to quit on the most desperate, despicable, seedy, grubby, hopeless, lying, hideously incompetent bunch of third-rate, double-dealing disasters this great nation has ever seen'.

He ridiculed the share-dealing Lord Archer as 'the great communicator who doesn't talk to his wife over breakfast' and Jeremy Hanley as a 'buffoon' whose main qualification for the job of Conservative Party chairman was 'that his name isn't Jeffrey'.

People had had enough of the Tories, of mass unemployment, poverty pay, the denial of basic rights, and attacks on hospitals, schools and railways, he said. 'How dare Michael Howard (the Home Secretary) say they are the party of law and order. He can't control crime on our streets . . . Now it's clear he can't even control crime in the prisons.

'And only a man like Michael Howard would replace police with vigilantes, 'walking with a purpose'. Forget about walking with a purpose. There are 5 million people out there who want to be working with a purpose.'

Labour had to convince people it would connect politics with their lives, he said. 'We have to convince them of the justice of a minimum wage by exposing poverty pay. We have to show them how we propose to achieve full employment, like getting unemployed building workers to build houses for the homeless.'

Mr Prescott announced a new campaign pack for the party's political education officers, 'Active Labour - Towards 2000', and said that MPs would be getting out into regions 'putting politics back in touch with the people'.