Prescott's mouth mangles pensions, policies and names

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Indy Politics

John Prescott's attempt to dominate the policy agenda this summer backfired yesterday with a speech laced with gaffes and factual errors.

John Prescott's attempt to dominate the policy agenda this summer backfired yesterday with a speech laced with gaffes and factual errors.

The Deputy Prime Minister used an address to Labour Party members to attack William Hague, saying the Tory leader's move to embrace "compassionate conservatism" was a sham intended to disguise a "callous" agenda for cuts to public services.

But, in an erratic performance Mr Prescott called a government initiative by the wrong name, mispronounced a Labour MP's name and did not know the annual increase in the state pension. He referred to the "Cold Fuel Weather Allowance" instead of the "Winter Fuel Allowance", called Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North, Joy and said the increase in the state pension amounted to 78p, instead of 75p.

Addressing the meeting in Enfield Southgate, where Michael Portillo was ousted in the 1997 general election, Mr Prescott falsely said Stephen Twigg, the Labour MP, had won the seat by a majority of 16,000 rather than by 1,433.

His performance is the latest of a series of policy gaffes. Mr Prescott suffered severe embarrassment last year when he stood in for Tony Blair during Prime Minister's Questions and did not seem to know what the contentious European Union withholding tax was.

He had another setback when he made an emergency statement to the Commons during the Kosovo crisis and had difficulty pronouncing President Milosevic's name.

The Tories seized on Mr Prescott's latest speech. Michael Ancram, chairman, said: "He should get back to his day job as the Government's chief carpet-fitter, and Tony Blair should have him carpeted when he gets back from holiday."

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