Radical plans could alienate core voters, Prescott tells Blair

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John Prescott has warned Tony Blair against adopting a radical manifesto that would alienate Labour's traditional core supporters.

John Prescott has warned Tony Blair against adopting a radical manifesto that would alienate Labour's traditional core supporters.

In an interview marking the tenth anniversary of their election as leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party, Mr Prescott said there was a "big argument" in the Government over the tone of the manifesto.

It is understood that Mr Blair is being urged by supporters, including the former minister Stephen Byers, to be more bold in carrying out reforms during a third term. The supporters believe the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister, produced a manifesto that was too cautious in 2001 and are pressing for Mr Blair to insist on a radical programme.

Mr Prescott said: "This is a big argument, really. Do you have to be radical to win elections? There is that school of thought which is leading in the direction of some of the arguments about choice and traditional and modern values. But how do you advance it and make it more effective?

"You have to remember you still have to convince people that a lot of people vote Labour because of their traditional values. You have to carry the two together. I still believe in that general maxim: Labour's traditional values in a modern setting. Don't forget either part."

Mr Prescott, who has resisted Blairite reforms, such as direct funding of schools and giving more hospitals foundation status, said he had acted like a "brake" on Mr Blair over the past 10 years. He warned that the party needed to listen more to the electorate after its defeat last week in the by-election in Leicester South. "I used the phrase, 'We got a bit of a kicking'. The electorate is not happy about some things," he said.

Mr Prescott said he remained loyal to Mr Blair over the war in Iraq. "I have been consulted on all the things that have been involved. I have been supportive and I don't depart from that," he said.

He revealed he had joined a union for the first time since being forced to resign from the Rail Maritime and Transport union in 2002 after refusing to bow to a demand by its militant leader, Bob Crow, to toe the line in return for party funding. It is understood that Mr Prescott has joined Amicus.

He called for the modernisation of Commons hours to be reversed. They were changed to allow women MPs to mix motherhood with their parliamentary careers. Mr Prescott said: "I think it rushes the whole parliamentary business of the day, so I don't think that has been beneficial. Quite frankly, the lifestyle of some of them who probably live in London has changed a bit. Not all of us live in London and after all, we only work 38 weeks a year in Parliament. I just don't think it's worked."

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