Tuesday, May 27, 2008
'They Are Just Like Us'
We're all familiar with John Prescott, with his mangled syntax and his chewing a wasp expression, but few of us could have imagined the revelations offered up in his memoirs. Having read Prezza on the Couch yesterday by Decca Aitkenhead and heard him interviewed by John Humphrys on On the Ropes this morning I have concluded that, as he claims, he has been badly treated in the press. I know he was a fool over Tracy Temple, I know he had difficulty with clarity and the English language and I know he has told us about a mass of insecurities in his memoirs which we do not normally expect Cabinet ministers to confess. But I do believe Prezza is unfairly maligned in the press and the pub.
1. On the language question, while he can make some awful muddles, he usually manages to make his meaning clear as during his impressive defence of Brown on Andrew Marr yesterday. We have to remember his disdvantaged education and the fact that Ernest Bevin, possibly Labour's greatest working class politician and a successful Foreeign Secretary, was also a poor speaker who made frequent mistakes.
2. On the fidelity front, well, he is not the first senior politician to be caught with his pants down and at least he took responsibility, came clean and admitted to his idiocy. His worst reprisals probably came from within his own household.
3. He admits to: feelings of great inferiority regarding New Labour's Beautiful People, to bulimia, even to a phobia about entering places like restaurants on his own, while he could happily address audiences of thousands. But Harold Macmillan, the suavest, calmest and most eloquent of Tory politicians confessed that speaking in the House was an ordeal for him which sometimes made him vomit and PMQs was like 'going over the top' in World War One; in his eighties he said he worried for months ahead when he had to make any speech at all.
The problem with Prezza was that he was an easy target for both the rightwing press and the (by no means small) supercilious section of the leftwing variety. I think his revelations have been brave and interesting, proving once again for me, the veracity of Estelle Morris's report on what members of the Cabinet were like: 'The good news is, they're just like us and the bad news is, they're just like us.'
Elizabeth Grünbaum Germany
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