Prescott will play full role in poll campaign, party says

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Indy Politics

Labour is insisting John Prescott will take a "full and active role" in its council election campaigns, despite some of its own MPs calling for his resignation.

The Deputy Prime Minister has made no public appearance in the five days since the storm broke over his affair with his diary secretary Tracey Temple.

He spent several days with family members, including his wife Pauline, at home in Hull.

Mr Prescott finally broke cover yesterday afternoon, being driven from the house in the back seat of a silver car, which had a large dent on the passenger side.

With 48 hours to polling, party strategists are now agonising over how to return him to the public eye. But Phil Woolas, the local government minister, said: "He is certainly not going to be ducking out of anything."

Mr Woolas would give no details of the Deputy Prime Minister's next appearance, but he added: "Mr Prescott, who has a central role in this campaign, will be playing a full and active part. We are certainly not hiding him."

With a succession of further allegations about Mr Prescott's private life, three Labour MPs have called for his resignation.

Lynne Jones, the MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, said the Prescott furore "just adds" to the need for a new leadership team. She said: "There's an aura of incompetence."

Stephen Pound, MP for Ealing North, and Geraldine Smith, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, also expressed doubts about Prescott's position.

Mr Prescott has told friends he has no intention of resignation. His family have reportedly told him not to quit.

He has said he is considering referring several papers to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). This would renew his prickly acquaintance with Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain's former ambassador to the US and now chairman of the PCC.

Sir Christopher's memoirs, DC Confidential, in which he described a number of ministers as "political pygmies", triggered an extraordinary spat last year with Mr Prescott.

He recalled: "During the Kosovo campaign, Prescott got into a terrible tangle with a senator to whom he talked about war in the "Balklands" and "Kovosa".

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said that expecting the media to ignore the affair was like "asking people not to talk about the weather on a bank holiday".