Sunday, April 30, 2006

 

A Prescott Resignation could Prompt Leadership Challenge

According to one Sunday, Prescott was considering resignation following the 9 page spread in the MoS of revelations by his former diary secretary and lover, Tracey Temple. Later, on Radio 5 Live he was reported to have rejected such a course, but I suspect he might have no choice in the matter. Having an affair when a Cabinet member is not necessarily a sacking offence but it did for Parkinson and it did for Mellor, partly because the huge media furore makes it difficult for the mininster to do his job properly and the negative publicity harms the government. Since those ancient days the situation has worsened if anything. Alastair Campbell's rule of thumb was that if the noise has not abated after 12 days, the minister has to be thrown to the wolves. I get the feeling with Prezza's case that the calls for him to go will continue for at least that period, if not longer. We learn there have been previous lovers- one of whom claimed he was rubbish in bed- and other revelations are just queuing up to be made we learn from the blogosphere.

The nature of his crimes entail not just lurid bonking(the entertainment from which we are grateful for) but: deceiving a wife very popular in the Labour Party; having an affair with an office aide, suggesting status exploitation; and using the perks of office like access to Dorneywood and official cars, to pursue his affair. This last might occasion investigations of improper conduct at an official level as the MoS suggest has already been initiated. But it is the implications of the affair which bode even more ill for Blair's limping administration.

Coming on top of the Clarke foreign prisoner debacle and Hewitt's travails with an overspent NHS, the removal of the DPM might precipitate that deadly challenge to Blair's leadership which will possibly sound his death-nell. My analysis has been that he can tough it out as long as Labour MPs see their own fate as synonymous with his. This forces them to keep the daggers sheathed but recall that in November 1990 a fair wedge of Conservative MPs calculated that Thatcher's continuation in office was unacceptable and moved to depose her. If nothing else the DPM's role as a trusted mediator between Blair and Brown has been torpedoed and we might just be seeing the barriers to a leadership challenge beginning to be removed along with Big John. No wonder the Observer's editorial, calls for a rapid infusion of new blood via the reshuffle which most expect to follow in the wake of next Thursday's woeful local government elections. Clarke and Prescott will be lucky to survive even until then.

Comments:
The charge sheet against Prescott looks pretty lame to me, Skipper: (i) "lurid bonking" (Is there any other kind?). And it's not exactly a crime is it?
(ii) "decieving his wife". How do we know this? who knows what goes on behind the Green Door? Since (if Guido is right) there seem to have been at least three mistresses I doubt if she had no inkling whatever of John's extra-curricular interests, unless she is as dim as a door-post. But in any case whose business is it except theirs? (In some other countries it would be considered odd if a leading politician did not have a mistress).
(iii) "misuse of the perks of office". Honestly. So Tracey stayed at Dorneywood - Blair has his chums and cronies (Cliff Richard and the like) stay at Chequers at the public expense (Although presumably he doesn't shag them. Perhaps - and this is an ever more unsettling image - they pray together).
(iv) "status exploitation" Possibly, and serious if true (it would never happen on a University campus would it?); but the affair itself doesn't prove that, and we are talking about a mature woman.
I think Prescott has treated Tracey Temple very badly and she deserves her revenge. But Prescott's main crime is that the Tory press hate him and he has made himself look ridiculous, generating acres of negative publicity in the tabloids and the broadsheets. I agree that this is the key factor.(It looks as though Blair thinks Prescott is more expendable than Clarke). On a more serious note, it does presumably mean there could be an election for Deputy Leader (even if Blair doesn't apoint a DPM); this could be a chance (if enough MP's can be persuaded to sign up) to stand a "stalking horse" against Blair.
 
I've had second thoughts Skipper, after reading the evidence from Tricia McDaid on Iain Dale's blog (from the Sunday Mirror). There may be something in the "status exploitation" charge (if her evidence can be relied on). Anyway, I'm bored with this now. I've taken a vow of silence on Prescott. He's definetly a goner.
 
Politaholic
I'm on your side re the morality of this but was trying to write about the politics of it. Personally, I don't think there was any real 'status exploitation'- and yes, it does happen on campus, though never, (to my chagrin), to me-as she did not seem to be unduly over-awed by the DPM- frankly, who would?-but was wholly, as the courts would say, 'consensual'.
Yes, if Prezza resigns, there will be pressure to re-elect a DPM and such an election will be a door against which the anti-Blairites will seek to throw all their weight. On ething is certain, Prezza has lost all authority in his descent into a laughing stock; imagine the noise when he next stands up to speak in the House?
I'm not yet bored by the topic, though I'm a little ashemed to admit it- there is much more to come on this yet - I agree the poor bloke is history or, to use the more hip term, 'toast'
 
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