Prescott insists he will stand at next election

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Indy Politics

John Prescott indicated his determination last night to continue his government career beyond the next election, after claims that he was planning to leave Parliament in three years' time.

Friends of the Deputy Prime Minister denied press reports yesterday that he had told Tony Blair he wanted to step down as an MP at the next election. They insisted Mr Prescott's enthusiasm for politics was stronger than ever.

They said he wanted to see long-term projects, in such areas as local government and the environment, through to fruition past the next election, which is expected to take place in 2005.

In a move to scotch "unfounded and mischievous" speculation over his political future, Mr Prescott will submit himself to his Hull East constituency party for reselection in the near future.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr Prescott said: "I have now told my constituency party officers that I will put myself forward to them again as the candidate for the next general election."

After the election last year, Mr Prescott, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, was moved from the frontline portfolio of environment, transport and the regions to a more low-profile post in the Cabinet Office.

Since then rumours have spread that Mr Prescott, 63, has conceded he is nearing the end of his political career. Asked about the reports, a close friend of Mr Prescott said: "You must be joking. John has got a real second wind since the last election which, hopefully, is going to take us into a third term of government, and knows we need political power to deliver on our programmes. He is a party man through and through. He is determined to be at the centre of the third Labour government."

A second friend said Mr Prescott was fully occupied. He said: "The people that matter in Government know the value of what he is doing."

Mr Prescott's insistence that he wants to serve in a third term raises the prospect of him holding a cabinet post past his 70th birthday and would rule out the need for an election for the post of deputy leader, which he won in 1994.

Mr Blair would be keen to avoid such a contest, which could produce an unpalatable result for him if he was compelled to replace Mr Prescott.

It could also trigger a damaging round of jockeying for position among the cabinet hopefuls, who could include David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and Charles Clarke, the party chairman. But Mr Prescott's denials could put an end to any manoeuvring.