David Blunkett was slapped down by Downing Street yesterday after he suggested he was helping John Prescott run the country in Tony Blair's absence.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions had said that he and the Deputy Prime Minister would take "the necessary decisions" on issues, including the response to terrorism, over coming weeks. "I obviously have the experience and the knowledge and I help out in terms of having to take, with John Prescott, the necessary decisions in the next couple of weeks," he said on Sunday.
His intervention irritated colleagues and Downing Street said: "David Blunkett is the Work and Pensions Secretary. The Deputy Prime Minister is in charge while the Prime Minister is on holiday."
A spokeswoman added that Mr Prescott had consulted five cabinet colleagues, including the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, over the weekend. Asked if they included Mr Blunkett, she simply said: "No."
Mr Prescott's office also denied he was receiving any special help from Mr Blunkett, who was Home Secretary between 2001 and 2004. Later, the Deputy Prime Minister underlined his status as Mr Blair's holiday stand-in as he arrived at Downing Street to host a security meeting.
Press photographers were tipped off that the Deputy Prime Minister was about to arrive at No 10, where he was in talks with Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister.Reuse content