Prezza gives Birt a bloody nose

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Indy Politics

If Lord Birt, the man who does Tony Blair's "blue skies thinking" thought he was an important counsellor respected throughout Whitehall, he now knows better.

If Lord Birt, the man who does Tony Blair's "blue skies thinking" thought he was an important counsellor respected throughout Whitehall, he now knows better.

He is, in fact, just one of "thousands of advisers" who "whisper in ears" but take no decisions. And he may be Lord Birt in his own mind, and the Armani-suited former director-general of the BBC with a "mission to explain" to others, but to at least one colleague he is John "bloody" Birt. This was the monicker given him by no less an authority than the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.

Mr Prescott was out campaigning at a Tesco supermarket in Edinburgh when he was approached by a shopper about the revelation in yesterday's Independent that the advisers do - but they don't make decisions."

Mr Prescott's comments came in reply to a question about the revelation in yesterday's Independent that the Downing Street Strategy Unit was considering whether the UK needed a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Labour is considering the options for generating electricity without adding to global warming, but Mr Prescott's response is evidence that he clearly does not want to stir up fears about nuclear power this close to an election. The Deputy Prime Minister's visit to Edinburgh South West is one of a series by senior ministers to the constituency where the Transport Secretary, Alastair Darling, is seeking re-election in the face of a strong Tory challenge.

His remarks about Lord Birt were the second colourful outburst of the campaign from the politician who livened up the 2001 general election by punching a man who threw an egg at him. On a visit to Wales, Mr Prescott was annoyed by questions from a local journalist and told him to "bugger off".

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