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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 13:59 GMT
Prescott 'regrets' blow
John Prescott says he regrets the punch-throwing incident with a protester at an election meeting in north Wales.
The deputy prime minister described Wednesday's episode as "frightening" and said he wanted to get back to campaigning "without any violence or intimidation".
Police said on Thursday there had been an "orchestrated attempt" to disrupt the meeting with two convoys of protesters descending on the town of Rhyl.
Craig Evans, a 29-year-old farm worker from Denbigh, was released on police bail in connection with the incident.
Mr Prescott's punch has dominated the day's political agenda and has been followed by heckling at events attended by Tony Blair, William Hague and Charles Kennedy.
Opposition party criticism of Mr Prescott has been muted with few calls for the deputy prime minister's resignation.
Prime Minister Tony Blair praised his deputy at Labour's daily news conference in London and attempted to play down the incident.
"In respect of John, of course it would have been better if the whole thing hadn't happened, but I want to say something to you about John Prescott.
"You could not wish for a deputy more loyal, more true and more decent.
"He cares about his country and he cares passionately about his politics but John is John and I'm lucky to have him as my deputy."
A spokesman for North Wales police said: "Last night there was an orchestrated attempt to disrupt the meeting and stretch the resources of the police."
He said 30 people had gathered near the Little Theatre before Mr Prescott arrived and two convoys of farm vehicles and trucks converged on the town centre.
Following the arrest, he said all parties would be questioned during the investigation but added that the police would not be "coerced or badgered into making rushed decisions in this matter."
The spokesman denied that the police had failed to deploy enough officers for a visit by the deputy prime minister.
"Officers acted quickly and decisively," he said.
Mr Prescott is spending Thursday on the campaign trail in Scotland.
He arrived at a postal sorting office in Edinburgh where anti-privatisation protesters waved placards declaring "Stop Two Punch Prescott's postal sell off".
"I tried to get away as soon as possible from the incident, it was a frightening and regrettable incident, which involved two female assistants being knocked to the ground."
Conservative leader William Hague said Mr Prescott should have kept his cool.
"No doubt he was a bit rattled because it was a day when Tony Blair and [Home Secretary] Jack Straw had actually spoken to some people around the country and found out the reality of what was going on in this country and that people are not satisfied with the performance of the government."
Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes, said: "The guy should not have thrown the egg and the deputy prime minister should not have reacted in the way that he did. None of us is perfect.
"But both of them have now to be dealt with by the law in the usual way," he said.
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