Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Sunday, 20 April 2008 15:02 UK

Prescott's shocking confession

By Ross Hawkins
BBC political reporter

John Prescott
Mr Prescott was often pictured eating during election campaigns

Some political Sunday newspaper scoops meet with little more than shrugged shoulders and knowing nods at Westminster.

This one was different.

John Prescott's battle with bulimia was not something journalists ever imagined covering.

From the Sunday Times the world has learned that the former deputy prime minister consumed whole tins of condensed milk and felt he could eat through the entire menu at his favourite Chinese restaurant.

He found comfort in opening packets of digestive biscuits and "scoffing the lot".

If the details were remarkable, the fact the deputy prime minister managed to keep them a secret for so long was amazing.

Political opponents have baited John Prescott for years about his background and his appearance. Some will greet his confessions with mockery, not sympathy.

Tough and uncompromising

He sought to get in there first, saying that people might look at his weight and judge him "not a very successful bulimic" .

So why has he revealed this now?

Cynics will note he is about to publish his memoirs and has a serialisation deal with a Sunday newspaper.

His editors will have wanted to publish something more eye-catching than his account of trying to introduce elected regional assemblies.

John Prescott said he wanted to help others suffering with bulimia by going public. He has probably managed that.

Politicians - even retiring ones - do not like to admit weakness

Never again will it be seen as a condition that only affects young women.

But he has also revealed a little of the pressures that fall on politicians when they get to the top.

The 16-to-18 hour days, interrupted only by brief breaks to eat, he described have been recounted by former ministers before. Few have been so frank about the toll they take.

When Labour came to power in 1997 Prescott led a huge super-department. Getting the job was a political coup, but now he admits the work got on top of him and he took refuge in gorging himself.


John Prescott talks about his bulimia

Politicians - even retiring ones - do not like to admit weakness.

Life in the House of Commons remains a tough and uncompromising business, and few MPs have been as tough and uncompromising as John Prescott.

So this story will lodge in the public mind not only because of the inevitable jokes it will inspire, but also because it shows even the most combative politicians can struggle to cope with their jobs.

Prescott tells of bulimia battle
20 Apr 08 |  UK Politics
Prescott to stand down as Hull MP
27 Aug 07 |  UK Politics
Prescott 'in talks over memoirs'
12 Aug 07 |  UK Politics
Prescott quits as deputy leader
10 May 07 |  UK Politics
Profile: John Prescott
27 Aug 07 |  UK Politics

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