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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
John Prescott
John Prescott

Date of birth

31 May 1938

Political profile

One of the giants of the Labour movement, John Prescott has been deputy leader of the Labour Party since 1994, and Deputy Prime Minister since 1997.

When Labour came to power, he was put in charge of a new super-ministry of the environment, transport and the regions.

He oversaw substantial transport reforms, and the establishment of regional development agencies and the London mayoralty.

However, the department was dogged by accusations of ineffectiveness and he made a few personal gaffes, such as being driven a very short distance by a car at a Labour conference on his way to deliver a speech on traffic reduction.

After the 2001 election, he was moved to a less high profile role in the Cabinet Office, but retained the position of Deputy Prime Minister.

The Conservatives took delight in poking fun at his new role, suggesting that he had few genuine duties.

But in the reorganisation which followed the departure of Stephen Byers in 2002, Mr Prescott became head of the first formal Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - and regained the local and regional governmental responsibilities he had held at the DETR.

He was first elected to the Commons in 1970, after a career in the merchant navy, where he had been a leading activist in the National Union of Seamen, and study at Oxford's Ruskin College.

He quickly gained a reputation in Parliament as a fiery and passionate left-wing orator, as well as a bitterly partisan opponent of the Conservatives, both traits he retains to this day.

His oratory is combined, however, with an occasional inarticulacy which leads many to underestimate his intelligence and political skills.

In 1994, after the death of John Smith, he stood for the party leadership and was elected Deputy Leader.

He became, for Tony Blair, an important bridge between the traditional Labour left and the modernising faction of the party.

It was his tour de force performance at Labour's conference in 1994 which helped to swing the party behind Blair's constitutional reforms, including the revision of Clause IV.

Since then, his perceived role as keeper of the leadership's conscience has helped to secure his position at the top of the party (despite resigning from the RMT in 2002 after nearly fifty years of union membership.

That role is notwithstanding his occasional embarrassments, the most spectacular of which was his scuffle with a protester during the 2001 election campaign.

Contact

020 7219 5030

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