Leading article: A refreshing antidote to the spin culture

Share

Trust John Prescott. Comprehensively sidelined through the high-summer terrorist alert by the Home Secretary, the Deputy Prime Minister has come striding back into the limelight in his own inimitable way. He is reported to have told a private meeting of Labour MPs that President Bush's commitment to the road map for peace in the Middle East was, to put no finer point on it, "crap". He also had some colourful language for the US President's cowboy mentality, adding - in characteristically self-deprecating fashion - "I can hardly talk about that, can I?"

The morning after the plain-speaking of the night before, of course, is a time for denying, forgetting, or simply not having heard what was said. Yesterday a veritable pea-souper of oblivion seemed to have descended on the meeting concerned. The Deputy Prime Minister himself, concerned perhaps that his disloyalty to the holidaying Prime Minister had become public, issued his own carefully crafted denial.

All of which is a great pity - for two reasons. It is a pity, first, because, as the then Mrs Thatcher almost said in similar circumstances, every government needs a Prezza. But this spin-bound government needs one more than most. Over the past nine years, Tony Blair and his communications staff at Number 10 have evolved a whole new political language in which meaning comes second to technique.

So often have ministers been caught out in the ultra-positive and selective gloss they have applied to the facts that the public has developed a healthy scepticism towards almost anything they say. The instinctive cynicism many people felt about the latest terrorist alert shows the risks of so devaluing the language.

Amid all the Blairite smooth-talking and spin, the gritty language of John Prescott, who tells it like it is, is refreshing. His sporadic outbursts of the vernacular constitute a vastly underestimated political asset to the Government. Unlike his undeclared freebie weekend at the ranch of an American billionaire, and unlike his affair with his diary secretary, his tendency to speak his mind is really not something he should be ashamed of.

The second reason why Mr Prescott need have no second thoughts about his choice of vocabulary is because he was doing no more than giving voice to a view that is widespread among Labour MPs - and, it should be said, in the country at large. "Crap" might not be the most sophisticated way of describing Mr Bush's approach to the Middle East road map, and it is probably not a word we would set out to employ in an editorial. But it was high time that someone broke through the false façade of party unanimity to tell the truth about the failure of US foreign policy in the Middle East. Inelegant Mr Prescott's description might have been, but it did the job.

Accounts of the context in which Mr Prescott made his remark also confirmed something that has long been suspected, but never definitively pinned down. The Deputy Prime Minister reportedly told MPs that he had given his support to the Iraq war only because the US had promised in return to advance the Middle East peace plan, known as the road map.

As we now know, and as Mr Prescott and his fellow MPs have learnt to their political cost, the Iraq war went ahead with the support of the British Parliament, but there was no comparable push from Washington to implement the road map. On the contrary, the Middle East conundrum was essentially left to fester. With the recent assault by Israel on Hizbollah in Lebanon, which has put back the peace process by at least a decade, the full cost of that US breach of faith is now clear.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

 

Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam