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April 28, 2006

Utley on Prescott

Now, don’t be nasty Tom:

Indeed, the thought occurs to me that of all the ministers in the Cabinet, Mr Prescott is probably the least likely to be damaged by the revelation that he has been to bed with somebody other than his wife. This is because the entire point of the man is that he is a thoroughly basic sort of a bloke, who belches, farts, eats too much, loses his temper, picks his nose and behaves in every other way like human beings at their least cerebral.

I have talked to an awful lot of people in my time, from every walk of life - politicians, PR men, estate agents, bus drivers, teachers, hairdressers, solicitors, gardeners, bankers, traffic wardens, farmers… But I have yet to meet a single person who has advanced the argument that Mr Prescott holds one of the highest offices in the land because he is fitted for it.

Nobody in the world thinks that he has the slightest aptitude for administration or any kind of intellectual grasp of anything at all.

Everybody - and I mean absolutely everybody - knows that he is a dim-witted, inarticulate, uneducated, belligerent buffoon, who would have the greatest difficulty in securing work as a night-watchman at a sock factory if he didn't happen to be a privy councillor with a vast government department to run.

The Soviet Union was stuffed full of thick bullies like Prescott, with handsome houses and luxury limousines to whoosh them from the Moscow flat to the dacha. But he must surely hold the record for being the stupidest man ever to have held high office in the United Kingdom since the Norman Conquest.

No, no, don’t hold back, tell us what you really think.

April 28, 2006 in Politics | Permalink


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Anyone see Littlejohn on Prescott in the Mail on Sunday? It's a masterpiece of crude malice.

Posted by: Jimmy Doyle | Apr 28, 2006 9:03:25 AM

Jeremy Hardy described Prescott as "Minister for shafting the workers in their own accent".

Posted by: Justin | Apr 28, 2006 9:34:05 AM

Prezza, when traduced in the press, often rings up to lambast the reporter/columnist in question. I don't 'spose he will this time.

Posted by: the great redacto | Apr 28, 2006 9:48:37 AM

[Everybody - and I mean absolutely everybody - knows that he is a dim-witted, inarticulate, uneducated, belligerent buffoon, who would have the greatest difficulty in securing work as a night-watchman at a sock factory if he didn't happen to be a privy councillor with a vast government department to run]

Not quite everybody, presumably, as the guy does actually have a BSc in Economics. He also went to Oxford, so "uneducated" is stretching it a bit too. Utley is quite purely and simply, an ignorant cunt.

Tim adds: Prescott? Oxford? Ruskin wasn’t it?

Posted by: dsquared | Apr 28, 2006 10:30:48 AM

I think Utley is the least pleasant columnist working in the British press.

Posted by: Matthew | Apr 28, 2006 10:45:34 AM

Yep, Kusrin.

Posted by: dearieme | Apr 28, 2006 12:02:17 PM

Despite the hyperbole, Utley's basic point is sound: this scandal will be less damaging to Prescott than it would be to most other senior politicians because so many people don't take him seriously anyway. It's hard to let people down when they have such low expectations of you to begin with. The story is also unlikely to affect his career because he has already reached the highest office he has any realistic chance of holding, and Blair is hardly going to sack him for committing adultery.

A much more interesting question is whether the details of his affair were deliberately leaked to the press by the Labour party in the hope of distracting attention from more serious matters, such as cash-for-peerages and those missing foreign criminals.

Posted by: Andrew Zalotocky | Apr 28, 2006 12:10:28 PM

"Ruskin wasn’t it?"

Yes, a two year diploma course which provided an entry qualification for Prescott's degree course at Hull. Prescott is not uneducated - although I can understand the evident reluctance of the Universities of Oxford and Hull to publicise the connection.

Perhaps more significant is that Prescott was actually born in Wales even if he was brought up mainly in South Yorkshire. However, we don't read of the Welsh rushing forward to claim associations with Prescott among their distinguished progeny and the South Yorkshire folk don't readily admit to any association either.

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 28, 2006 12:29:07 PM

Andrew: "A much more interesting question is whether the details of his affair were deliberately leaked to the press by the Labour party in the hope of distracting attention from more serious matters, such as cash-for-peerages and those missing foreign criminals."

That looks a very credible hypothesis to me. Judging by all the scurrilous pics that were splashed across the tabloid press yesterday, someone, somewhere has been doing a really dedicated job of getting and storing all those pics for an opportune moment. And at least some of the pics seem to have been taken on occasions where those present would have been either other politicians or civil servants from the DPM's office. Looks like a conspiracy to me.

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 28, 2006 12:45:52 PM

I don't think Prescott is in any way less effective than the average Labour minister. Excluding handing over the money supply decisions to the Bank of England (worthwhile but hardly a positive achievement) & going to war what have the lot of them achieved?

The difference is that he is a human being & the rest are cardboard cut-outs.

Posted by: Neil Craig | Apr 28, 2006 6:47:31 PM

The Iraq war was and is an illegal war - absent sanction by the UN Security Council - and a war which has resulted in thousands of Iraqi civilians being killed and after Blair had explicitly said in a keynote speech to the Chicago Economic Club in April 1999:

"If we want a world ruled by law and by international co-operation then we have to support the UN as its central pillar."

But I agree about the misreading of the entrails. The Telegraph and other papers are making serious miscalculations if they think the revelations about Prescott will seriously damage his reputation. In the Labour heartlands, his reputation will soar IMO, especially with the recurring coy hints in the press that other similar skeletons are still there in the closet.

My guess is that the revelations were all carefully trailed through focus groups to test reactions before the leaking of the story and that it certainly wasn't accidental that the Mirror was the chosen outlet to break the story. Recall that Alastair Campbell used to be the political editor of the Mirror before moving to work for the Labour Party?

How come Prescott agreed to this?

Because he is an absolutely dedicated Party hack. With the ending of the cold war, few nowadays bother to read Koestler's Darkness At Noon about the Moscow show trials in the late 1930s. This year is the 50th anniversary since Krushchev's speech to a secret seesion of the Soviet Communist Party revealed that 89 out of 139 members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party were shot on Stalin's orders.

How come dedicated Communists confessed to absolutely absurd political crimes for which they were duly executed? On this, Koestler had better insights than Orwell. Treatment with rats gnawing at his head finally convinced Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four that he really did love Big Brother after all.

In Darkness At Noon the key was compelling logic to show that a signed confession was for the ultimate good of the Party and the very cause that the accused had dedicated his life to working for. So it is with Prescott and his sacrifice has done much to blunt media coverage of the justifiable outrage of the nurses at thousands of sackings because the Department of Health screwed up the administration of the NHS - remember how the NHS used to put round promotional literature boasting that with over a million employees it is the largest single employer in all western Europe?

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 28, 2006 9:59:14 PM

News update Friday night:

"JOHN PRESCOTT’S career was on the brink last night after it emerged that the secretary with whom he had two-year affair had sold her story to a Sunday newspaper for £250,000. . .

"It also emerged yesterday that Ms Temple, who allegedly kept detailed diaries, had hired Max Clifford, the agent who specialises in kiss-and-tell newspaper exposés. All eyes will be on The Mail on Sunday, which was said to have concluded the deal."

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 29, 2006 12:11:15 AM

The Iraq war was and is an illegal war - absent sanction by the UN Security Council...

I always thought something was no illegal until deemed so by the relevant authority. The UN has not ruled the Iraq war illegal, therefore it is not illegal.

A lack of legal ruling does not make something illegal, otherwise I would have acted illegally when nobody authorised my dump this morning.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Apr 29, 2006 9:22:06 AM

On the legality of the Iraq war, readers can judge for themselves from this documentation:

"We are teachers of international law. On the basis of the information publicly available, there is no justification under international law for the use of military force against Iraq. The UN charter outlaws the use of force with only two exceptions: individual or collective self-defence in response to an armed attack and action authorised by the security council as a collective response to a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. There are currently no grounds for a claim to use such force in self-defence. The doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence against an attack that might arise at some hypothetical future time has no basis in international law. Neither security council resolution 1441 nor any prior resolution authorises the proposed use of force in the present circumstances."
Dated 7 March 2003.

The signatories of that letter were:

Prof Ulf Bernitz, Dr Nicolas Espejo-Yaksic, Agnes Hurwitz, Prof Vaughan Lowe, Dr Ben Saul, Dr Katja Ziegler
University of Oxford
Prof James Crawford, Dr Susan Marks, Dr Roger O'Keefe
University of Cambridge
Prof Christine Chinkin, Dr Gerry Simpson, Deborah Cass
London School of Economics
Dr Matthew Craven
School of Oriental and African Studies
Prof Philippe Sands, Ralph Wilde
University College London
Prof Pierre-Marie Dupuy
University of Paris

The Attorney General's (caveated) advice on the legality of the war which the Cabinet was not permitted to read prior to the invasion:

Post the invasion, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq for all the claims made in this government dossier, signed off by Tony Blair, and published on 24 September 2002 for a special session of Parliament recalled from summer recess:

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a senior legal adviser at the Foreign Office resigned her post:

"A minute dated 18 March 2003 from Elizabeth Wilmshurst (Deputy Legal Adviser) to Michael Wood (The Legal Adviser), copied to the Private Secretary, the Private Secretary to the Permanent Under-Secretary, Alan Charlton (Director Personnel) and Andrew Patrick (Press Office):

"1. I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force against Iraq without a second Security Council resolution to revive the authorisation given in SCR 678. I do not need to set out my reasoning; you are aware of it. [blanked out section]

"I cannot in conscience go along with advice - within the Office or to the public or Parliament - which asserts the legitimacy of military action without such a resolution, particularly since an unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression; nor can I agree with such action in circumstances which are so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law.

"2. I therefore need to leave the Office: my views on the legitimacy of the action in Iraq would not make it possible for me to continue my role as a Deputy Legal Adviser or my work more generally. For example in the context of the International Criminal Court, negotiations on the crime of aggression begin again this year. I am therefore discussing with Alan Charlton whether I may take approved early retirement. In case that is not possible this letter should be taken as constituting notice of my resignation.

"3. I joined the Office in 1974. It has been a privilege to work here. I leave with very great sadness."

"Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was 'solidly' behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today."

"Kofi Annan told the BBC the decision to take action in Iraq contravened the UN charter and should have been made by the Security Council, not unilaterally."

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 29, 2006 3:06:58 PM

Bob B,

The Iraq war is not illegal until the UN declares it so, not until some teachers write into the Guardian and some other experts throw in their two penneth worth.

For something to be illegal, it must be declared so by a higher authority. Show me such a ruling by the higher authority, and I will then accept that the Iraq war is illegal.

Posted by: Tim Newman | May 1, 2006 3:41:32 PM