Working class hero to peer of the realm – Prescott to campaign in the Lords
HE IS the nation's most famous class warrior, the former Hull MP with little time for "flunkery and titles".
But yesterday it was revealed that after 40 years at the sharp end of British politics, John Prescott is to leave his natural habitat and join the ermine-clad peers in the House of Lords.
Mr Prescott, or Lord Prescott as he will soon be known, was among more than 50 senior figures elevated to Parliament's upper chamber yesterday.
The former deputy prime minister, who represented East Hull until the election, issued only a brief statement last night.
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"I welcome the opportunity to continue to campaign in Parliament for jobs, social justice and the environment as well as to hold this Con-Lib Government to account," he wrote on his blog.
His appointment as a life peer marks another stage in Mr Prescott's remarkable career, which has included spells as a trainee chef, ship's steward and trade union official.
Entering Parliament in 1970, he quickly made a name for himself with his plain-speaking and combative style.
And when Labour swept to power in 1997, he was at the heart of British politics as Tony Blair's deputy and Downing Street power broker.
Hull North MP Diana Johnson summed up the mood among many in the Labour Party yesterday, saying: "I look forward to seeing John Prescott in his new role. Westminster wouldn't be the same without him."
Alan Johnson, Hull West and Hessle MP and former cabinet colleague, said he was "delighted" by the news.
"I think it's really good for him and Pauline, and great for Hull and the country."
And Mr Johnson said the popular image of Mr Prescott as a political streetfighter – he famously threw a punch at one egg-throwing protester – was unfair.
"It's a mischaracterisation to say he's bullish. I've seen him at times when he's been very subtle. John's politically skilled.
"He brings a wealth of experience and a background that won't be replicated by many in the future, of coming where he came from to be deputy leader of the Labour Party."
Mr Prescott faced charges of hypocrisy yesterday, having previously been dismissive of both "flunkery and titles" and hereditary peers.
Mr Johnson dismissed the criticism, saying: "John won't like dressing up in ermine and he won't like the pomp and circumstance, but it's absolutely wrong for people to criticise him. He's going to the House of Lords in pursuit of his political objective, which has always been to bring about a predominately elected House of Lords, and you need Labour people in there to do that."
Recently elected Hull East MP Karl Turner said it was "excellent news" that his predecessor would be taking up his seat in the Lords.
He said: "I'm really pleased for John. He's been a Member of Parliament for 40 years and on that basis he deserves to be rewarded for his services to the constituency, the Labour Party and the trade unions."
But Mr Prescott faced criticism from campaign group Power 2010, which recently visited Hull with a petition urging him not to accept a peerage.
"No wonder people are put off politics when they see MPs standing down or voted out, only to return zombie-like to Parliament within a few weeks," said campaigner Guy Aitchison.
Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole Andrew Percy also questioned Mr Prescott's decision.
He said: "I don't begrudge John Prescott his seat in the Lords, given his long tenure of service as both an MP and a minister.
"However, there is an element of hypocrisy in a self-appointed working class champion selling out his principles at the first chance to become a member of the aristocracy. The sooner the House of Lords is mainly elected, the better."