Blustering Two Jags on the ropes


Last updated at 11:39 07 July 2006

A blustering John Prescott refused seven times yesterday to deny that he has had more than one extra-marital affair.

In an extraordinary interview with John Humphrys on Radio 4' s Today programme, the Deputy Prime Minister was challenged for the first time on air over rumours about his private life.

He also came under huge pressure over his controversial visit to the Colorado ranch of Philip Anschutz, the tycoon who is planning to build a supercasino on the Dome site.

Though he did his best to sound bullish, the Deputy Prime Minister gave the impression of a man teetering on the brink. It was on questions about his private life that he floundered most badly.

Internet websites have named one alleged mistress of Mr Prescott and another said to have spurned his advances. The claims come after the revelation of his two-year affair with diary secretary Tracey Temple.

The Deputy Prime Minister was repeatedly asked whether the affair with Miss Temple was the only time he had cheated on his wife,Pauline. He tried to change the subject several times and then rounded on Humphrys for repeatedly putting the question.

He said: 'Listen, you're talking about a lot of people here who have in fact denied these stories, names have been mentioned, some of them are in the process of perhaps suing about it. I'm not going to get involved in that.'

He added: 'People must judge me on what I do on the job. I know that's controversial, I've been in a lot of controversial areas.

'That's what I'm doing, John, that's what people expect me to do and I'll get on with doing my job and I'm not leaving it, I'm getting on with it.'

Asked why he had accepted an invitation to Mr Anschutz's ranch, he replied: 'I'm curious about it, I saw the cowboy films over my young years, didn't you?'

He claimed he did not know his department made a payment to charity in lieu of a direct payment for the stay. Mr Prescott defended his seven meetings with Mr Anschutz, saying he was transforming the Dome from a perceived 'liability' into the 'jewel of London'.

He admitted he discussed the regeneration of the Dome during some of their meetings - but insisted he handed responsibility for planning decisions involving the site to junior ministers from 2002.

In Westminster, there were signs that support for Mr Prescott is draining away, though few Labour MPs are willing to criticise him publicly.

'I can't see how he can go on,' said one, who asked not to be named. 'It has almost become pathetic.'

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