John Prescott has told allies he will stay on as deputy leader of the Labour Party after Tony Blair steps down, if there is no challenge to Gordon Brown.
The Deputy Prime Minister's friends denied a report he was intending to stay on to rehabilitate his reputation after the Tracey Temple affair and the row over his links to Philip Anschutz, the American owner of the Millennium Dome.
Mr Prescott has made it clear to friends he will step down if Mr Brown is challenged for the leadership, triggering a full-blown election for the deputy's post.
"He said he would not stay on if there is an election for the leadership," said one ally. "But if there is a shoo-in for Gordon without an election, it would be wrong for him to go. It would mean we would have to have an election for the deputy alone.
"That could cost the party a lot of money and he'd rather stay and see the hand-over through."
The six potential candidates for the deputy leadership - Alan Johnson, Peter Hain, Harriet Harman, Jack Straw, Hilary Benn and John Cruddas - may now see a challenge to Mr Brown as the only way to ensure a contest for the deputy's job.
Mr Prescott is due to deliver the end-of-conference speech this week, intended to refocus the party on attacking the Tories, and to turn the attention away from itself to the country.Reuse content