Hilary Benn defends Prescott

Hilary Benn
Hilary Benn

John Prescott has been defended by government minister Hilary Benn, amid calls from MPs and commentators for him to leave the cabinet.

The international development secretary said Mr Prescott was "getting on with the job" as deputy prime minister and his good work in the government was being ignored by the media.

Mr Benn's comments came as Mr Prescott battles a storm of controversy over his position in the cabinet. In Tony Blair's recent reshuffle, Mr Prescott lost his department but continues in his role as deputy prime minister. He now chairs nine cabinet committees.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Benn said: "I spent yesterday in Downing Street at a meeting that John Prescott chaired looking at what we were doing in response to this earthquake in Yogyakarta, and he then came over the road to thank the different emergency teams.

"That's John Prescott at work - a side of him that people don't always see, the press certainly don't report, and he was getting on with the job."

Peter Mandelson, the European trade commissioner and former government minister, also defended Mr Prescott, saying he was "a party man to his fingertips".

But several Labour politicians began to question Mr Prescott's role in the party after a series of articles portrayed him in a negative light to the public. He has been criticised for having an affair with his secretary and allegedly meeting her in his Whitehall office.

Labour peer Baroness Kennedy said it was "timely" for Mr Prescott to go, while opposition MPs have taken the opportunity to condemn the deputy prime minister.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary affairs spokesman David Heath said: "John Prescott has ceased to be simply an embarrassment to the Labour party, he is an embarrassment to the entire country."


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