Harry Cohen : I have no regrets - this should be out in the open

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I have no regrets about making public John Prescott's private thoughts about the Bush administration. It was quite legitimate to repeat what the Deputy Prime Minister said at our meeting because I think it's important to have this out in the open. I know that some colleagues will say that I should never have made public the fact that Mr Prescott said Mr Bush had been crap on the Middle East road map. But Mr Prescott was laying out his position in relation to the Iraq war and saying the only reason he gave it his backing was because the road map was put on the table as a solution to the core dispute in the Middle East: Israel-Palestine.

The Americans are the key players and what Mr Prescott was saying in his own typically colourful words, which he is now denying, is that the Bush administration were crap at taking the road map forward.

In doing so, he was speaking for the British people, who are appalled at the spectacle of Tony Blair supporting Mr Bush on the Middle East. Mr Blair has been living in hope that there would be progress on the road map, but for three years the Bush administration has not given it any priority at all.

After the meeting, Mr Prescott said: "I know where you are coming from Harry" because I opposed the Iraq war. He said: "I am sure the press is outside and you will tell them what you want to tell them."

I took Mr Prescott at his word, and spoke to The Independent because I believe it is time we had a debate about Britain's role in the world, and about the disastrous Middle East policy that Tony Blair and George Bush are following.

Harry Cohen is the Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead

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