[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 11 August 2006, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
What is John Prescott's role?
By Vicki Young
Political correspondent, BBC News

John Prescott earlier this month
Mr Prescott is still in charge, says the home secretary
There's probably never a good time for a prime minister to go on holiday - one very good reason to have a reliable deputy to take the reins at a moment's notice.

But at Westminster criticism of Tony Blair is mounting - why did he go off to Barbados when he knew the security services were tracking a potentially catastrophic terror plot?

We're told Mr Blair was briefed six weeks ago about the operation.

It was so serious that he spoke to President Bush about it on Sunday before travelling to the Caribbean on Tuesday.

Downing Street are sensitive to suggestions that Tony Blair has abandoned his post.

They say he's in "constant contact" with the security situation here and fully supported the police operation.

But one official said if Mr Blair had known the full scale of the alleged plot he would almost certainly have cancelled his trip.

Scrambled from Scotland

So what of the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott?

It seems strange that he didn't even attend the first two meetings of the Government's emergency response committee Cobra, which met through the night on Wednesday.

In fact the government went to great lengths to make sure Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander was there.

An official travelled to his holiday location on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland, to brief him; then an RAF helicopter was scrambled from Northolt to bring him back to London.

Insiders insist it's perfectly normal for the home secretary to chair these emergency meetings, but there's no doubt Mr Prescott has been left with a bit part in this unfolding drama.

Critics of Mr Prescott say he wouldn't inspire confidence at a time of national crisis but officials say he has been briefing ministers who are abroad and MPs whose constituencies have seen arrests.

Mr Reid said Mr Prescott's talks would help bring communities together in a "common cause".

But interestingly it was decided last month that Mr Reid should delay his holiday until Mr Blair returns.

Needless to say, the deputy prime minister is said to be incandescent with rage at suggestions he's being sidelined.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific