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Last Updated: Friday, 28 April 2006, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are JOHN PRESCOTT (main picture), with KEVIN COSTNER, ANNA FORD, LYNN ASHTON and LUIZ FELIPE SCOLARI.

JOHN PRESCOTT

The revelation of John Prescott's affair casts light on the life of a hugely influential, and driven, man whose passion for politics has taken him to within a heartbeat of Number 10.

Those searching for clues about the real John Prescott would learn much from a candid radio interview given by the deputy prime minister a few weeks ago.

Speaking on the Bristol community station, Radio 19, Mr Prescott discussed music, films and, perhaps most tellingly of all, the trauma of his parents' divorce.

An iPod-user, he praised Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit, Fairground by Simply Red and The Jam's A Town Called Malice, from his favourite film, Billy Elliot.

He also revealed that a young Marlon Brando - and not Hugh Grant - would be the best person to play him in a film version of his life.

John Prescott while at Oxford University
Steward-turned-student: Prescott during his Oxford days
And he admitted that, following his parents' break-up, "my mother wanted me to hang my father and say all sorts of things about him, but I would not do that."

Clearly, those who dismiss John Prescott as a boorish and aggressive throwback to a long-gone working-class image of masculinity do a disservice to an obviously complex, highly- motivated, maybe even subtle, political player.

Despite his bluff Yorkshire manner, John Prescott was actually born in Prestatyn, North Wales, in 1938, the son of a railwayman.

His childhood was neither affluent nor deprived. Indeed, the Prescott family won 1,000 as the winners of a competition to find the "most typical British family of 1951".

Class-warrior

He failed the 11-plus - something which, even today, affects him greatly - and attended Ellesmere Port Secondary Modern before joining the Merchant Navy, where he worked as a ship's steward during the last days of the great ocean liners.

Among those he served was a former prime minister, Sir Anthony Eden. And, though the wages - including generous tips from passengers - were very good, it brought home to Prescott the reality of the class divide.

His close emotional identification with Billy Elliot - he has seen the film six times - runs deep. He told one interviewer, "This lad Billy rose up against the prejudices of his community and against the very structure of that community and said, 'This is what I am. This is how I want to live my life.'

"He had to fight with all the love he had for his family and his community to be true to himself. And yes, that moved me. It made me cry."

John Prescott making a speech
Passionate orator: Prescott has made a number of key speeches
And Prescott the fighter, honed by his time as a shop steward in the National Union of Seamen and a spell at Ruskin College, Oxford, soon made his mark on the national stage.

He entered parliament in 1970, a Bennite class-warrior, joined Labour's shadow cabinet as an effective transport spokesman in 1979 and became a party grandee in 1993 after calling for the end to the union block vote, to save the party's then leader, John Smith, from a humiliating defeat.

But his lack of education, and taunts from the Conservative benches - usually Nicholas Soames' "Mine's a gin and tonic, Giovanni, and would you ask my friend what he's having?" - left Prescott with a hatred of the Tories which still lingers today.

After Smith's death Prescott's star rose further - deputy leader in 1994, deputy PM three years later.

Syntax problems

And his mantra was clear and unwavering: "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."

Prescott's role as a power-broker and wise counsellor has smoothed the often strained relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

And his 2004 assertion, that "the tectonic plates appear to be moving" within the government, seemed to crystallise his current view that Tony Blair should make way for his successor sooner rather than later.

Under his original title, Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions - "the only minister with a job title bigger than his vocabulary," according to Sir Norman Fowler - John Prescott wielded vast influence over housing, planning and local government.

Today, his portfolio is more limited, covering housing, local government, regeneration, planning and urban and regional issues.

John Prescott scuffling with a demonstrator in 2001
Fighting back: Prescott scuffles with a demonstrator in 2001
More importantly, though, he chairs a number of key Cabinet committees, including those on domestic, and constitutional, affairs.

But Prescott's reputation for hot-headedness remains.

The man who said in 1994: "I don't pursue vendettas or punch people on the nose," lit-up the dull 2001 general election by, well, punching a man sort-of on the nose.

And his nickname "Two Jags" was only topped by a 1991 driving ban for speeding and a 1997 fine for the same offence.

Then there is his singular verbal style.

"The Green Belt is a Labour achievement, and we mean to build on it," he told one reporter. After a rough flight, Prescott quipped "It's great to be back on terra cotta."

And he once described government transport policy thus: "We are now taking proper, putting the amount of resources and investment to move what we call extreme conditions which must now regard as normal."

The Prime Minister once told a Labour conference, "Would I need a bloke with a stick and a pig's bladder when I have John Prescott?" But, with his deputy mired in scandal, Tony Blair must be hoping that this most loyal of colleagues will quickly return to the political stage.


KEVIN COSTNER

Hollywood actor Kevin Costner has been outed as the celebrity accused of performing a sex act while being given a massage at a hotel. The allegation was made by the masseuse involved, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and who is claiming unfair dismissal from the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, Scotland. Costner, who is understood to deny the allegation, and his wife were staying there while he took part in a pro-celebrity golf event in 2004.

ANNA FORD

BBC broadcaster Anna Ford has read her last news bulletin. She is retiring at the age of 62 to concentrate on "new things". As a tribute to her, the One O'Clock News, which she has presented since 1999, included a montage of her TV career, from the days as a reporter and newscaster for independent television companies, through to her recent BBC career. Now, she says, she's going to "have some fun".

LYNN ASHTON

45-year-old Lynn Ashton who is permanently attached to an oxygen cylinder, has competed the London Marathon after five days, raising 5,000 for the British Lung Foundation. Mrs Ashton suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and walked approximately five miles a day pushing a trolley carrying her oxygen supply. After completing the 26.2 mile challenge, she said it was one of the best and emotional days of her life. "I don't regret a minute of it," she beamed.

LUIZ FELIPE SCOLARI

The Portugal football coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was offered the job of England coach after the upcoming World Cup. The 57-year-old Brazilian who won the World Cup with Brazil in 2000 and took Portugal to the Euro Championships two years later, would have replaced Swede Sven-Goran Erikkson. The proposed appointment split the nation between those who see Scolari as a proven winner, and those who wanted a home-grown manager.

Written by BBC News Profiles Unit's Andrew Walker





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