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Tuesday, 4 January, 2000, 19:13 GMT
Prescott 'sidelined' claim Tories

John Prescott John Prescott: Downing Street denies he has been snubbed

Downing Street has rubbished Tory claims that Prime Minister Tony Blair's holiday arrangements prove he has lost confidence in his deputy John Prescott.

The Tories seized on the revelation that Mr Blair has chosen not to let Mr Prescott take over his duties while he takes a New Year break in Portugal.

Mr Blair and his wife Cherie are staying at the official residence of the British Ambassador to Portugal John Holmes until the weekend.

Tony Blair: Holding on to the reins of power while on holiday

However, the prime minister is remaining in charge of government affairs for the duration of his holiday and has not handed over the reins of power to Mr Prescott.

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Environment and the Regions, John Redwood said the decision was a humiliation for Mr Prescott after a disastrous 1999.

"This is another vote of no confidence in John Prescott," he said.

Mr Redwood also suggested that Mr Prescott would eventually be sacked because he had become an embarrassment to the government.

"He is sidelined with the prime minister on holiday. He must be feeling his neck very gingerly at the moment," Mr Redwood said.

But Mr Blair's official spokesman accused Mr Redwood of making "silly statements".

redwood John Redwood: Mr Prescott has been sidelined

He said: "I am pleased to hear that Mr Redwood is alive after a long period of silence and I am looking forward to another year of silly statements."

Mr Prescott has himself admitted that he had a "difficult" year in 1999 following widespread criticism of his actions as transport minister.

In an interview last month, Mr Prescott acknowledged that the public was dissatisfied by the pace of transport improvements.

He recently handed over responsibility for the day-to-day implementation of transport policy to Transport Minister Lord Macdonald.

Downing Street denied the move was a demotion and insisted it would allow Mr Prescott more time to concentrate on the strategic direction of policy.

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See also:
18 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Labour accused of U-turn over cars
13 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott's big plan
13 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Blair weakens Prescott powerbase
13 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott demotion claims 'garbage'
12 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Government backs Prescott on transport

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