On the Politics Show, Sunday 12 November 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.
JOHN PRESCOTT MP Deputy Prime Minister
JON SOPEL: Well earlier this morning I spoke to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. I began by asking whether this would be an occasion tinged with sadness for him. His last Queen¿s speech before quitting the political stage.
JOHN PRESCOTT: Yes, I¿m sure it will be but let me just say, before I say any more on that, I¿ve just watched your film and it said, tired language used in the Queen¿s Speech. Well you know, when we put in there will be a prosperous economy and ten years we¿ve done that; the most sustained economic development we¿ve ever had and indeed for two hundred years and investment in our public services.
So yes, we have the same objective but we have to keep following - follow policies through. Some of them more international and this Queen¿s Speech will be characterised by a more long term view of how you deal with them. Sadness, yes of course I¿ll be sad to leave it but I¿ve been fortunate in my political life, I¿ve done many things from being a seaman through to being a politician and I look forward to the next phase. I¿ve enjoyed them and I¿m sure I¿ll certainly enjoy a certain amount of attention from the press, that seems to be the price I pay.
JON SOPEL: Okay. I¿m sure you¿re probably right about that bit. Anti social behaviour orders for example. Now that¿s just plain repetitive. You¿ve introduced I think five measures on this so far.
JOHN PRESCOTT: Yeah but each measure has had its contribution to make. I mean if its on anti social orders or indeed on other crime legislation, what the public have wanted to do and it¿s had its benefit. If you look at crime, it¿s gone down 35% in all the major categories.
Now that¿s quite important. Indeed, we¿ve said we¿re tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime and as we¿ve moved on, in some cases it¿s gone more international. Okay, you¿re talking about ASBOs but the character of the criminality act and social behaviour does change, it is dynamic and it requires government to deal with it, not stand aside and say I¿m not going to do anything about it.
JON SOPEL: You talk about the international element of this. What about the right of the police to hold a terrorist suspect for up to ninety days. Now that was rejected, do you think you need to re-visit that?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Well the police are constantly saying that they do feel they need that ninety days for inspecting all the evidence and the modern communications, investigating computers, they said that. I see Mr Blair has said it in Germany yesterday, not Tony Blair but the Chief Commissioner and he has said that they would like to re-visit that and go back to the ninety days.
Now governments do have to take account of what the police authorities are saying in this and we will no doubt be looking at all these matters, but at the end of the day, parliament makes the decision. Parliament rejected the ninety days. We got twenty-eight days, it¿s still felt by the police perhaps not to be adequate and if that¿s the case, parliament could certainly revisit and consider it.
JON SOPEL: I mean Gordon Brown clearly wants ninety days in looking at the interview he¿s given to the Sunday Times this morning.
JOHN PRESCOTT: Well the debate is clearly continuous. I mean it was the advice we received, it was the government¿s position we put in to parliament, we were defeated. The Tories voted against it, the Liberals voted against it. But you know, the people who are having to deal with it and...
JON SOPEL: Sorry to interrupt you. Do you believe it should be ninety days, because I¿m just sensing that?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I voted for it at the time, that was the Government¿s position and I do believe and I listen to what the police say, they say twenty-eight days is not sufficient, we¿ve had terrorist incidents since, when they¿ve had to look at a lot of these procedures and they are now saying to us, frankly, if we¿re going to have to deal with the kind of terrorism that¿s being indicated at the moment, then quite frankly, you may need to have more help in this area.
So let us listen to what the police have got to say. Then Parliament will take in to account what we would recommend to it, and the Government¿s position has always been that twenty-eight days was not adequate.
JON SOPEL: Well are you going to try and persuade the Tories a little harder this time to back the measures?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I think the Tories make most judgements at the moment on the political circumstances. I mean Mr Cameron goes around now appealing to a more populist view than he actually does in substance.
He tells us he¿s waiting for conference decision or indeed for his own policy decisions and his own commissions. We must wait to see that. At the moment a great deal of it is rhetoric and you know, I never ever thought I would agree with Mr Tebbit, but when he said this by Mr Cameron is clever marketing, I think he¿s right.
JON SOPEL: Okay, what about on to Lords reform now. Do the edited highlights of various Queen¿s Speeches on that, a Bill will be introduced to remove the right of hereditary peers, ¿98. My Government will introduce legislation to implement the second phase of House of Lords Reform, 2001. Legislation will be brought forward to reform the House of Lords, 2003. My Government will bring forward proposals to continue the reform of the House of Lords, 2005. I mean it is a bit of a worn out record, Mr Prescott.
JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I... worn out record, it¿s about what Parliament has decided and it couldn¿t get an agreement on how to reform the House of Lords. Governments can put forward their propositions, but in a democracy, parliament makes the decision. I¿ve been in parliament since 1970 and I¿ve seen a number of Bills comes through, arguing about the House of Lords reform, and you could never get a consensus. Now what we said we¿d do this time in our Manifesto, we would get rid of the rest of the hereditary peers and we would change the delay times that the House of Lords has.
Now Committees are looking at that at the moment. We¿re still coming back to it and we¿ll have to have another debate about it. But don¿t blame government. If it brings forward a proposals and Parliament then rejects them, and on the House of Lords reform, there was about five or six propositions for the reorganisation from totally elected to actually leaving it as it is and Parliament could not find a majority.
JON SOPEL: Isn¿t the point that there¿s been a lack of political leadership and it seems strangely appropriate, sitting in the Shadow of Oliver Cromwell, to be raising this point now? But actually, the Government has been vaguely indecisive about this, about what the composition of a reformed Lords should be.
JOHN PRESCOTT: Well there are different views in the Cabinet. I don¿t agree with an elected House of Lords and I argue my case for that. I think you can only have one elected authority and that indeed is the Commons. I believe there can be a second chamber and there are various formulas of how you deal with that, but there¿s division right through. Shadow cabinets, cabinets, Tory, Labour, Liberal, all have different views about it. The point is, you can¿t get a consensus on the constitutional reform but we will come back and try again and that¿s what we¿ll be doing.
JON SOPEL: Let me talk about the Deputy Leadership because it¿s beginning to seem that there are more kind of people entering this race than there is for the average Grand National. What advice would you give? How Alan Johnson talking about, that you¿ve got to cajole, assist and occasionally stand up to the Leader. I mean what¿s your advice to whoever succeeds you?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Well it¿s interesting since the Press said it¿s a none job, there are more candidates for the non job than you¿ve ever seen before but...
JON SOPEL: Do you think there should be more candidates for the real job? Is that what you¿re saying?
JOHN PRESCOTT: There might even be more candidates yet, for whatever jobs, I don¿t know, - time table. We in the National Executive have set out the code from when Tony makes his decision, but can I say to those who are competing for the Deputy Leaders job, the clue is the Deputy Leader. I never fought for... to become a Deputy Prime Minister, that is the patronage of a Prime Minister, whoever that may be.
Deputy Leaders are there, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, to help the connection between the Labour Party and the government and to reorganise. I¿m not sure every candidate seems to have in mind that they just want to be a Deputy Leader. I think probably they might well want to be the Deputy Prime Minister, but I remind them, that is the decision of the person who becomes the Prime Minister.
JON SOPEL: What is your key job? What advice would you give?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I think it¿s a very important job. I fought hard to make sure the party decided it was a one member one vote. That was an important decision taken in the Party, of which I played some part in it. And I think the job is very important, to have a relationship in government, between the Government and the Labour Party, or even opposition, when you have to reorganise, perhaps, having been defeated at some stage in there, a Deputy Leader role is quite crucial. I help build up the membership, build up the organisation and keep a good contact. In government it¿s not so easy because you have to keep that at a private level and the relationship between the Leader and the Deputy Leader is quite critical frankly, and that¿s what I hope Tony and I have been able to maintain.
JON SOPEL: And who are you going to back for the Deputy Leadership?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Oh wait and see. Well we¿ve had a nomination every month so far. I don¿t know how many will be in the final field at the end of the day.
JON SOPEL: Well you said you were backing Gordon Brown for the Leadership, why don¿t you say who you¿re backing for the Deputy Leadership?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Because I think the qualities of Gordon Brown, compared to anybody else who¿s in government are quite considerable and experience and government needs to have somebody who¿s strong on the economy. On Deputy Leader it¿s not quite so important in that sense.
JON SOPEL: So there¿s nobody that stands out in the Deputy Leader¿s field?
JOHN PRESCOTT: No, I¿m not getting involved in that. I¿ll have my vote and I¿ll exercise it at the point in time, but I think the Leader of the Labour Party is crucial job, particularly when they¿re Prime Minister.
JON SOPEL: One other matter. Have you been spoken to by the police, received a letter about the loans inquiry?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Look, I think I¿ve said before that erm, I knew nothing about... It seems to be general knowledge from leaks that people have been sent letters. I think this is a matter of an inquiry, it¿s now opened up by the police and we should leave it there.
JON SOPEL: And there¿s been a report this morning in the Mail on Sunday that Downing Street is furious with the leaked...
JOHN PRESCOTT: Mail on Sunday. Can we move to the next question? Do you ever think the Mail in Sunday gets a story that¿s right?
JON SOPEL: Okay, well let¿s leave the Mail on Sunday out of it. Is it true that Downing Street is furious about the way that this investigation...
JOHN PRESCOTT: Prattle. I mean nobody is ever quoted as saying it. It¿s always a source says this. The Daily Mail, clearly has a political agenda. Now joined by the Daily Telegraph. Position changed since those two guys from Guernsey bought it, now ordered to be as anti Labour. So we¿ve got two papers who are looking for any story about Labour. So you have to see it in that context. There¿s never any authoritive statement. The email the Mail talked about last, last week, wasn¿t even produced. Look, it¿s press prattle on a political agenda.
JON SOPEL: Okay, I just want to leave the newspapers out to one side and maybe it was my mistake for introducing the newspapers.
JOHN PRESCOTT: Well you wanted to talk about facts.
JON SOPEL: Okay. Are you satisfied with the way the loans investigation is being conducted?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Yes of course I¿m satisfied with it, in fact as much as I know about it. I expect the police to carry on with what they have to do in these circumstances and I¿m sure it¿s exactly the same for every one of us. If you¿ve got a complaint, as you have, you must investigate it to the full. As I understand it, that¿s what they¿re doing.
JON SOPEL: And a... Mr Prescott, I mean it¿s Rememberance Sunday. I know you¿ve just come back from Korea haven¿t you, where you visited the Memorial to the Glorious Gloucesters?
JOHN PRESCOTT: Yes, as a child I remember that battle in Korea, it was a United Nations operation, of course, headed up by the Americans but the British Troops took part in it and I thought I just wanted to pay my respects so near to November 11th and lay a wreath at what was known as the Glorious Gloucesters who are a terrible situation as with all people who died in Korea. But it just reminds us even fifty odd years ago, Britain was always involved in UN Operations, playing a part in maintaining democracy and the freedom of the world and we do today, so Rememberance today, is about that and can I add also, I¿m really pleased that we now have the Merchant Seamen in it.
They lost an awful lot of people on the... during that war, they weren¿t originally in it, but we¿ve added to it and so on Rememberance Day, we remember them all.
JON SOPEL: John Prescott.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH JOHN PRESCOTT
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The Politics Show Sunday 12 November 2006 at 12:10 GMT on BBC One.
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