I forgive you for the affair, wife tells Prescott

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Indy Politics

Pauline Prescott has told her husband John Prescott that she forgives him over his affair with his diary secretary Tracey Temple.

The wife of the Deputy Prime Minister told her husband at their home in Hull that she was devastated by his confession of his affair but she put part of the blame on the strains of life at Westminster.

Last night, allies of Mr Prescott dismissed as "absolute garbage" rumours at Westminster that he was considering quitting frontline politics to rescue his marriage. Family friends who have telephoned Mrs Prescott to show their support this week said that she was not a "quitter" but wanted privacy to work through the difficulties with her husband.

Mr Prescott is at the family home this weekend having returned to London for the Cabinet's weekly meeting on Thursday. He broke the news to her early last week after being confronted with the revelations by the Daily Mirror.

"She has forgiven him," said a Westminster ally. "She's absolutely devastated because she idolises John. But believes it is the fault of the life they lead."

Many Westminster marriages have split up as MPs have fallen to the temptations of the bars and the long hours alone in London, while their spouses are looking after the family home in the constituency. The late Robin Cook was among those who split from his wife to marry his secretary.

"Pauline is deeply upset but she is a strong-willed lady and she loves him," said another family friend. "The hardest thing for her is how people won't allow her and her husband to get on with their lives. They want to work this out in private for themselves, like any other couple, but she is besieged in her own home. She resents that people appear to be trying to force her out of her own home, the media are at the gates and won't leave her alone. She is frightened. She doesn't want people climbing over the fence and trying to photograph her through the windows."

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown rallied strongly behind Mr Prescott yesterday. The Prime Minister described him as "absolutely vital" to the Labour Party, adding: "John is somebody who is great value to me. People don't know the true value of what he does because it is so often behind the scenes."

Mr Prescott hopes to remain in his post to ensure a smooth handover of power from Mr Blair to Mr Brown, who said: "John is a great colleague, the person who does so much to bring the Labour movement together. John and Pauline are good friends for whom there is great affection."

A poll for BBC2's Newsnight programme found that 57 per cent of those interviewed said he should not quit, with 37 per cent saying he should go.

Ms Temple is now being represented by Max Clifford Associates, the company said last night. A statement said: "Tracey Temple and her family today contacted Max Clifford Associates and have asked MCA to represent them with regards to all media inquiries." The move will fuel fears among Prescott supporters that more revelations about his relationship could emerge.

Labour was embarrassed after it emerged that a newsletter featuring the Prescotts in a picture of matrimonial harmony was delivered in his Hull East constituency as news of his affair broke. The party's newsletter includes a full-length shot of Mr and Mrs Prescott on its front page in an apparently happy pose under a headline which reads "Home Pride". One of the party's councillors told the Hull Daily Mail: "To be honest, this is the last thing we needed."

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