The 2010 General Election Guide

And so farewell...


The Wintertons - Toffs with a penchant for poor jokes and first-class travel

The dignity with which they presented themselves, the volume of public space they occupied, the cash they took out of the system . . . They were the end of an era. Dinosaurs, Bed-blockers. Old-school parliamentarians.

And a very successful little family business in their husband and wife team. Between them they served in the Commons for 63 years and will be retiring with honours, emoluments and £60,000 of annual pension to live on. He has been an energetic old warhorse from the right of the party and latterly suffered the jeering support of his younger colleagues when he called to speak. He never held ministerial office, but for all his hoariness sat on the Modernisation committee.

Has parliament modernised? He would say enormously; the public hasn't noticed any difference.

Their joint reputation suffered latterly with Lady W's penchant for unpleasant jokes, Sir Nicholas's demand for first class travel ("they're a totally different type of people" in standard class) and for slapping the rear of a comely Labour MP in the tearoom. His defence was: It's the sort of thing he did so often that he couldn't remember whether he had on this occasion or not.

More seriously, he and his wife paid off their mortgage, put the house in a trust and paid £120,000 of taxpayer-funded rent to their children. It was all within the rules. And judging by their business-as-normal demeanour in the Commons they look at each other in the morning with no less admiration despite their public humiliations.

Will we see their like again? These profit-taking impulses may be endemic to the political class. Plus ca change, that's probably the way to bet.

John Prescott - Shop-floor magician who was fluent in the lingua franca of Old Labour

What a roller coaster of a career he had, what a ride it was. As much as the foursome that founded New Labour (Blair, Brown, Mandelson, Campbell), John Prescott was the one who created the coalition in the party. It was his speech to conference that delivered the Clause Four vote for Tony Blair. His brawling, quayside character kept the coalition together once they were in power. Without him, New Labour's quarterdeck was full of political aristocrats and middle class intellectuals - only he had a fluent command of the lingua franca of Old Labour. This was recognised in the sincerest way: they made him deputy prime minister.

In the first government he had a super ministry under his hand, a collection of departments (it was the days of "joined-up government" and "cross-cutting reviews"). He and his sidekick Hillary Armstrong struggled, frankly, among the technocrats and experts - those clever young women with the severe haircuts and Masters degrees in Administrative Administration. His departmental responsibilities diminished as the years went by, and "spatial strategies" lost the glamour they once had. His passion for devolved assemblies never bore fruit, even in the north east where he massively lost a referendum on the issue.

But he was widely held to have delivered the Kyoto Agreement, he became an essential intermediary between Tony and Gordon, and his round-up speech at the end of conference was invariably the second-best event of the week.

He loathed the press, and who shall blame him considering the torment he was subjected to. He once threw a comment at us waiting to watch him in committee - "come to pour another bucket of shit over Parliament, have you?" He resented the Tories calling over the floor of the House, "A gin and tonic, if you will, Giovani!" And it is to his party's credit that such taunts don't work in Britain any more.

He punched a voter. And looking back it's possible to view that warmly (if you think there's no chance of retaliation there's no courage in throwing an egg). He had sex with an employee behind the open door of his office. That was less spinnable. She went public later with a description of the encounter, including the words "cocktail sausage". It was a measure of his indispensability that he wasn't sacked.

One other point in his favour - we always knew what he was saying. His syntax may have been a cat's cradle but his meaning was always clear. Tony Blair's sentences were Corinthian - but you never knew for certain what he meant until he explained it a year or two later in front of an inquiry.

John Prescott was a public meeting politician, with a reach into the messy entrails of his audience. He could work his magic on street corners, factory floors, docksides, The modern young technocrats - so at home in interview studios - look puny beside him.

Alan Milburn - He could have been a contender but didn’t want it enough

He could have been a contender. He was an heir to Blair with brains, charm, looks and more street appeal than the Miliboys. He gave a very good impression of a human being. He was capable of pretending to nod off behind one of his earnest juniors at the despatch box.

He had Third Way ideas of reforming public services by the use of markets and commercial freedoms. The chancellor crushed him twice. First over foundation hospitals and second over the 2005 election. The campaign was faltering until Gordon was brought back in.

He withdrew to spend more time with his family and his consultancies. In the end, he didn't want it enough.

Chris Mullin - A man of small victories

After 23 years leaves the Commons with a modernising victory - a committee will now timetable non-government business. There's less to that than meets the eye. But the House as a whole will also now vote for slect committee members, let's see how that works.

As chair of the Home Affairs committee he brought a journalistic scepticism to enquiries, and had an integrity that went beyond party politics. He voted against 90 days detention and claimed expenses for a black and white TV.

His ministerial career was a shambles. It wasn't that he didn't want it enough - he didn't want it at all. His first act was to resign. But Tony rang him up and in 15 seconds persuaded him to take the job back up again. However, he had been right the first time.

As a minister for Africa his Commons performances amounted to, "I agree it's terrible but it's all more difficult than it appears."

Andrew Mackinlay – The Boxer

Short and stocky he looks useful in a fight. He was and is the model of an independent MP. He sits on the Labour side below the gangway with the dissidents. When called, he stands like a boxer jabbing away at his own front bench rather than the Tories. He speaks English with a prominent Essex accent, is scornful of ideology, partisan point-scoring, and the intelligence services. He never intervened with those morale-sapping patsies to support the government. In one of his earlier questions at PMQs he derided planted questions from New Labour sycophants. It's amazing he got as far as he did. That is, he had a long-term place on the Foreign Affairs select committee. He's had just enough position to avoid being irrelevant. Was it worth it? Oo, that's a question that must haunt him and others of his age and length of service. He spent his prime in Parliament. And who's grateful? Some of us were – and are. Let's hope it's enough.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'