Poll shows activist support for Prescott

Deputy prime minister John Prescott
Deputy prime minister John Prescott

Nearly two-thirds of Labour activists want John Prescott to remain in office, a new poll has shown.

The news will boost the position of the beleaguered deputy prime minister, who has faced growing speculation about his political future after his affair with a civil servant was revealed ahead of last month's local elections.

But 56 per cent of Labour activists said that Mr Prescott should retain his job for as long as Tony Blair remains in Downing Street, according to the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times.

A further nine per cent of those questioned said that the deputy prime minister should continue in his post for even longer, while just one in four thought that he should resign immediately.

Opinions concerning Mr Prescott's tenure as Labour's deputy party leader were similar among the poll of 567 party members.

The troubled deputy prime minister last week announced his decision to give up his grace-and-favour home, Dorneywood, after opposition parties and Labour MPs slammed him for retaining his £133,000-a-year cabinet salary and perks despite being stripped of his Whitehall department following his affair with Tracey Temple.

Labour chairwoman Hazel Blears has urged the party's MPs to end "pointless" speculation about Mr Prescott's political future. She said there was "absolutely no vacancy" for a new deputy prime minister.

Her comments came after education secretary Alan Johnson became the first cabinet minister to openly express an interest in the job.

In an interview to be broadcast by GMTV's Sunday today, Mr Johnson insisted there was "no campaign" for him to become Labour's deputy leader but admitted that he would be interested in the job if a vacancy arose.

Although the former postman is the first government member to declare interest in the role, the Sunday Telegraph claims that Downing Street sources are talking up the possibility of Commons leader Jack Straw replacing Mr Prescott if he were forced to resign.

Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain and constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman have also been mentioned as possible candidates for the post.

Meanwhile Mr Prescott has refused to answer reporters' questions about his political future during a four-day visit to the US and Canada to discuss climate change.


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