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Sunday, 5 December, 1999, 18:50 GMT
Prescott: I will not quit
John Prescott John Prescott is sitting tight despite the speculation

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott says he will not quit the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions despite intense speculation about his future.

At the end of what is seen as his worst week in politics, newspapers reported that Mr Prescott was on the verge of resigning the leadership of the massive department.

It's not that easy to winkle me out
John Prescott
Senior Labour MP Frank Field warned Downing Street it must start publicly supporting the deputy prime minister or risk damaging the image of Tony Blair and his government.

Speaking from India where he is on a six-day trip, Mr Prescott defended his department's record on improving transport.

He said: "I see no problem at all about staying in this job, and the Prime Minister knows it's right ... it's not that easy to winkle me out."

His transport reforms were always going to take time to work, he said.

"I knew there would be a year where I was treading water.

"I believe...we are going in the right direction at the right speed."

Friends defend 'pal'

Earlier ex-social security minister Mr Field said Mr Prescott had suffered at the hands of the media, but had not been backed by colleagues.

Frank Field Frank Field: Warning to Number 10
"I think John Prescott's not had either a good press or the sort of support that he should actually have," he said.

"I think the people in Downing Street ought to realise this is deeply damaging to the Prime Minister."

His plea was echoed by the general secretary of public service Unison, Rodney Bickerstaffe, who predicted the controversy could cost Labour votes at the next general election.

Mr Prescott was likely to survive as head of his super-ministry until after the election, Mr Field said.

But he had to "position himself with a department that really works so that he's also needed in the next parliament", he stressed.

Mr Bickerstaffe said he was a "pal" of Mr Prescott's.

He added: "I hope there isn't a campaign about him because if there is, and we find that going towards the next election he doesn't throw behind the campaign the weight and the support that he's got, then I don't think the party will have such a good victory."

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See also:
02 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott's future in doubt
03 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Tories prepare to savage Prescott
03 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
The Week in Westminster
05 Dec 99 |  UK
Prescott under pressure in papers

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