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John Prescott interview transcript

On the Politics Show, Sunday 25 January 2009, Jon Sopel interviewed John Prescott MP

John Prescott

Interview transcript...

JON SOPEL: And the cyber warrior himself is here in the studio. John Prescott, welcome.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Hi. First time I've ever been, had, good luck from a Tory, but thank you very much Tim, I agreed with an awful what he said.

JON SOPEL: Yeah. So is it going to be something different, this web site, from what the Labour Party does already, because you know, there is a Labour Party website. I've brought up your Go Forth web site here. And apart from a lot of emptiness in the first page, it goes down a bit and then, you know, it all sounds pretty much, straight down the line, Labour policy.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well, you'll recall when I was on your programme at the conference, we said we've just got to be different; we got to go forth. We got to be concerned about winning the forth election, then they were taking about another leader. And I think what we did in the next three months was to learn from that process and that's what we've been doing. So we've now established a web site, I've a Facebook which they're talking about here, and I've got two thousand three hundred - there's a new audience out there that we need to connect to. Now, I'm what - seventy years of age. I'm talking about people who are eighteen, twenty, less than that, who don't remember the eighteen years of a Tory government, you've got to talk in a different way to them and communicate in a different way and that's what I'm trying to do.

JON SOPEL: But what I'm trying to get to is, is it going to be anything different from what the Labour Party official web site does because it's staunchly loyal?

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yes I think it can. The one most important thing is Obama showed us and I think Tim referred to, is it's not just giving out the statements of ministers or actually giving central command statements all round, which I've done enough in my time. Now, it's about talking with people individually, being able to respond to them. For example, when I've entered in to my blogging with them, you get an immediate answer back. Now, when I do public meetings in the various regions, I invite them to come, prior to the meeting and we enter in to a debate. Now sometimes they will ask me bluntly Hey John, what are you going to do about the post office, because you were the guy in your Deputy Leadership speech, that said you would fight to stop the privatisation of the Post Office and elect a Labour government. Hang on and I did do that. But I did that I, I did one of these kind of virals where I put out a copy of the speak in video, where I put the statement and what I then said, I always support a public Post Office. And the government's position is a public Post Office. And we stopped the privatisation.

JON SOPEL: Yeah, but the government now wants to go ahead with the partial privatisation of the Royal Mail, which is something else you're opposed to.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well, in our manifesto, I made it clear, we want to keep it in public ownership.


JOHN PRESCOTT: it will remain in public ownership. It will be a universal service. Now I discuss with ministers, as I can, what are you doing then about the mixture of public and private finance. I did that with air traffic movement many years ago.

JON SOPEL: John, I just want to be clear. You support Peter Mandelson's proposals for the partial privatisation of Royal Mail. Yes or no.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I've never been against private money going in to public sector. I did this (interjects)

JON SOPEL: I just asked you a straight question. Do you support Peter Mandelson's proposals, yes or no.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well we haven't had the full proposals yet. He's going to bring legislation forward.

JON SOPEL: On the basis of what you understand, do you support Peter Mandelson's proposals.

JOHN PRESCOTT: I want a publicly owned, manifesto said that and I will fight to keep that.

JON SOPEL: But you see, if you're going to be a success on the web, you've got to be direct on the web and you've given me a politician's answer.

JOHN PRESCOTT: No, I've given - well, they can make a judgement about me. I gave an answer. The people accepted it - they saw a picture of me and I said, that's what I promised in 1994, a Labour government stopped the privatisation of the post office, right. And we won the election. Now what we're saying, this is twelve years on, I still believe in a publicly owned Post Office. I've answered the people that's the case. What is the combination? I'll wait to see the Bill coming. I'm entitled to say that to people and I'll tell you want, I don't think you're talking honestly with them they won't stay on the Facebook.

JON SOPEL: Exactly. And the other thing that people go to on the internet, they want to see reaction pretty quickly to things that are happening fast and at real time. That is the power of the web. There's nothing on there about the story in the Sunday Times today about four Labour peers apparently (interjection)

JOHN PRESCOTT: Hang on that happened last night! What do you want me to do, sit down immediately? Yes you need to be immediate about it, there's no doubt about that. I use it for consultation, for example, I did say to them, should I get an iphone or should I get actually a blackberry and they said, oh, give me different advices but one of them said, buy both John, cos you've two Jags. So what I've learned to do is I'm moving from that campaign, which we promised, (interjects and overlaps)

JON SOPEL: an old pledge card.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yes. And now we're in to a blackberry. It is immediate, you do have to give responses. When I'm on the way in the car, this morning, I was getting messages in from the programme, asking me to do it, promising money, doing different things. It's the immediacy of it with young people that (interjects)

JON SOPEL: Fine. So tell me what you think of the story in the Sunday Times.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well, I think they're unfortunate stories, there are allegations at the moment. I heard what Chris Grayling said and I've heard what the government have said. They're going to look in to it and that is the reality of it. At the moment, let us see how truthful they are. But it is a grey area. You know it's that. To be honest, you did mention it. People are receiving money. I've always belonged to thing you should be an MP and only an MP. And you shouldn't be taking money from anywhere else. But it's often been a grey area (interjects)

JON SOPEL: Have you spoken to your old friend, Peter Snape.

JOHN PRESCOTT: No, I don't know, no I haven't.

JON SOPEL: You haven't.


JON SOPEL: Does that mean he's one of the people that is (interject)

JOHN PRESCOTT: reaffirming what you're doing is actually making your name from the paper, I don't know. It's an allegation and I haven't spoken to him no. I haven't even read the story quite frankly.

JON SOPEL: Haven't you?

JOHN PRESCOTT: No, I haven't.

JON SOPEL: But if you're going to be, if you're going to be King Blog, then you've got to be out there with views on this sort of stuff.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yeah. This happened a few hours ago. You can be immediate if you want, but are you going to act on every allegation in the paper? No, I won't. I know from my time, you get allegations in papers and it's like being on a coconut shire. You put a coconut down and throw the balls at you. Let us see what the facts of the case are. I heard what you were saying this morning to Chris Grayling. He, in fact said, let us see what the facts of the case were and I don't want to just enter in to press allegations. Frankly, what I'm trying to do is get a direct contact with ordinary people about stories, not necessarily spending all the time either writing an article for the press or dealing with press allegations. That I think has undermined politics to a great extent. I just want my direct contact with people. I write it my own way, as I did with the Post Office and I don't rely on editors or journalists to tell people exactly what I think. Or indeed yourself, to be quite honest.

JON SOPEL: Thank you. Let us talk about, you said that one of the aims of the website was to defend Labour's record over the past decade .. (interjects)

JOHN PRESCOTT: Damn good record as well.

JON SOPEL: Yeah, yeah, okay. But you talk about ten years of economic growth. We are now in a recession. We've now hit a bust.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well you've hit a problem and globally, there's no doubt about it. It is a very serious matter. I don't hear a scream and chant too much about the bankers. What I've been saying on my website, if you've been writing it and following the blogs, is that they, the people who created this problem were the bankers. We're not hitting them very hard are we? We've saved them from collapse (interjects)

JON SOPEL: What should we do?

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I think what the government has done is first of all, you didn't want the banks collapsing and even the Tories agreed on that, so they recapitalization was important. Secondly though and I run a campaign, 'no if's no but's - pass on the cuts', they didn't do that. So we've actually made that clear.


JON SOPEL: Do you strip Fred Goodwin of his knighthood and people like that, who were knighted for their services to banking.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well, certainly he doesn't, it doesn't guarantee it, doesn't warrant it, does he. If he got it for the services to banking, I wouldn't have thought what he's done since then, proves that justification. But let's go beyond just one individual, he's one of those bankers, the bankers have failed us. We produced an economic circumstances, low interest, low inflation, millions of people back at work. What did the bankers do, they over-ride all the careful considerations, they're no longer prudent, they go for greed, like Greg isn't it, in that film Wall Street, Greed Is Good, that's what we've got from them and we can say that in a tougher way, that the government has to deal with bankers. So one of the things that's allowed here, is to say the bankers caused the damn problem and they should be paying the consequences for it.

JON SOPEL: John Prescott, thank you very much. Mr Cyber Warrior for being with us this morning on the Politics Show.


Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

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The Politics Show Sunday 25 January 2009 at 1200 GMT on BBC One.
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