Tony Blair says John Prescott has 'lost none of his old magic' as he backs former deputy's police commissioner bid
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has been in Hull backing Lord Prescott’s police and crime commissioner bid. Crime Reporter Jenna Thompson reports
FOR years, Lord Prescott supported Tony Blair at the top of the British Government.
But yesterday, the tables were turned when the former Prime Minister visited Hull to back Lord Prescott’s bid to become the first Humberside police and crime commissioner.
With less than a week to go before the elections, Lord Prescott enlisted the help of his old ally for some grassroots campaigning.
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“I am a great believer in John and I think he would do a fantastic job,” Mr Blair told the Mail.
“He has lost none of his old magic. Being with him has brought back some great memories.”
As he handed his former boss a badge bearing the slogan “I’m a JP deputy”, Lord Prescott joked: “I always wanted to make you my deputy, and now I can.”
After arriving at Mr Chu’s China Palace restaurant at St Andrew’s Quay – where the Prescott campaign is based – Mr Blair called a resident in Hessle to canvass votes for the Labour candidate.
Mr Blair, now Middle East peace envoy, said: “It was the first telephone canvassing I have done for a long time, so it was a little strange but I enjoyed it.
“I said to the guy, ‘This is Tony Blair’, to which he said: ‘You are taking the Michael’ – or words to that effect. He was definitely a little surprised.
“He said he is voting for John, which is good news – unless I have put him off, of course.”
When Mr Blair hung up, Lord Prescott said: “That will get him talking anyway.”
Members of the University of Hull’s Labour party were cold-calling constituents in the restaurant’s Jack’s Bar when the former Prime Minister walked in to join them.
Vice-chairman Ryan Mellor, 20, said: “I was on the phone when he came in and I just thought, ‘Wow’. It was incredible.”
Chairman Rosie Corrigan, 19, said: “It was quite surreal. I didn’t quite believe I was sitting there with Tony Blair and John Prescott.”
Speaking to Labour party members who gathered at the restaurant, Mr Blair said he believed his former deputy is the right person to become the first Humberside police and crime commissioner.
He was greeted with a standing ovation and rapturous applause and cheers.
Mr Blair said: “The reason I have come here to support John is to show my loyalty to him, my belief in him and my admiration for him in everything he has achieved, not just in government, but in his life.
“He is a worker, he is committed, he is dedicated, and I can’t think of a better role for him.
“He is someone I have always had a huge respect for and a huge liking for. I can’t say the feeling was always mutual.
“After we stood against each other for the Labour leadership, he was the first person to tell me he would be working alongside me and that is what he did.
“During our three terms together, I was proud to work with him and proud to work alongside him.
“He is worth it, the election is worth it, so get out there and support him and make him the first police and crime commissioner for Humberside.”
After briefly meeting supporters – including a woman who took his autobiography A Journey for him to sign – Mr Blair was whisked to Barton to continue the campaign.
In just five days’ time, voters will be asked to choose who should be the first commissioner in the landmark election.
Lord Prescott said: “I think any candidate would say thank God it is the last week. You can’t tell how it is going to go but, like Barack Obama said, you have got to win the ground war and get people to turn out.”
Keith Hunter, the former head of policing in Hull who is working alongside Lord Prescott on the campaign, said: “The campaign is very tiring but it is fantastic to have someone of Mr Blair’s stature coming to support us.
“On a personal level, it is overwhelming to meet a former Prime Minister and hugely important international figure.
“When him and John are together or speaking about each other, you can see the genuine affection and respect they have for one another.
“Everyone on the team is now working very hard and are absolutely focused on this one last sprint towards the finish line.”
The elections will be held on Thursday, with the winner being announced the following day.
The successful candidate will start work a week later after Humberside Police Authority is abolished.