Prescott admits he is nuclear-free as summer offensive is launched

It has taken six years to confirm, but John Prescott finally put the country at ease yesterday on one of the great unresolved questions of national security: no, he does not have his finger on the nuclear button when Tony Blair goes on holiday.

Although he is officially in charge during the Blairs' break, the Deputy Prime Minister disclosed that he will not personally take control of any weapons of mass destruction.

The issue came up yesterday as Mr Prescott said he would lead another summer's campaigning on behalf of the Labour Party and Government. Traditionally, any questions about who is in charge of the nuclear deterrent have always been met by a Downing Street mantra about not talking about things we cannot talk about.

But yesterday Peter Sissons decided to press the point on BBC1's Breakfast with Frost. "When you see George Bush getting into his helicopter, there is always a man with a black briefcase three feet behind him with the nuclear codes, which is the sign of presidential ultimate power. Do you have one of those?" Mr Sissons asked. Mr Prescott replied: "No, he's the Prime Minister, he's the one that makes the decisions. I get on with helping with the administrative and making sure government's ticking over and deal with problems as they arise."

But the Deputy Prime Minister will adopt his customary "fight them on the beaches" approach to the summer. Mr Prescott outlined plans to tell us all just how better schools, hospitals and policing are under Labour. He was much more keen to talk about his summer offensive than newspaper revelations that his wife Pauline had been reunited with the son she gave up for adoption when he was three. The fox-hunting, Tory-voting Army officer Paul Watton met Mrs Prescott two years ago.

According to the Labour Party, Mr Prescott's national tour will involve at least two trips a week "to meet local people at the grassroots" and get their "feedback" on public services. Sadly for Mr Prescott, he has been robbed of a mainstay of the British political summer season, a phenomenon that normally makes the Deputy Prime Minister look like the perfect premier. Iain Duncan Smith has decided not to say or do anything at all.

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