Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Prescott walks it like he talks it
John Prescott says he went by car for security reasons
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott abandoned his ministerial car to walk 250 yards to the Labour Party conference.
Mr Prescott sparked an small outcry when he and his wife, Pauline, travelled the short distance from their hotel to the conference centre by limousine on Wednesday.
But on Thursday Mr Prescott, accompanied Home Secretary Jack Straw - who lists walking among his recreations - to the conference centre on foot.
Mr Prescott said: "These shoes are made for walking."
Asked why he had left his car at the hotel, he said: "I've walked every day except that one day, and I've been having some talks with Jack."
His cabinet colleague International Development Secretary Clare Short also joined in the criticism.
When asked about the row on BBC2's Conference Live programme, she said: "It's hard. Poor old John. But you know, if you say we must use our cars less, you should use them less.''
She pointed out that she had not brought her car to the conference, adding: "To tell you the truth, I don't like having a car. It means you never walk along the street, you don't see what's in the shops, you get unfit ... so I think getting addicted to having a car is not as good as it sounds.''
Asked why he had taken the car rather than walk, Mr Prescott said: "Because of the security reasons for one thing and, second, my wife doesn't like to have her hair blown about. Have you got another silly question?"
A Labour Party spokesman added that Mr Prescott and Prime Minister Tony Blair travelled between the hotel and conference centre by car for security reasons on police advice.
He said Mr Blair made the journey once on foot on Monday as part of a pre-arranged photocall for TV cameras - a move which required extra security.
'Labour's hypocrisy knows no bounds'
But shadow environment, transport and regions secretary John Redwood rejected this explanation.
Mark McArthur-Christie, traffic spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, said Mr Prescott's behaviour was "incredible".
He also urged the government to put more investment into transport so that drivers would have a genuine choice between using their car or good quality rail and bus services.
Ian Willmore, spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said: "Politicians need to learn that if they preach the virtues of not using the car, people will notice if they travel 300 yards in a large limousine.
"They cannot say one thing and do another. Mr Prescott is right in what he says to motorists but he must put his own words into practice."
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