Prescott says sorry and goodbye

JOHN Prescott, mired in controversy over his affair with a diary secretary and his close relationship with the American ranch owner who wants to turn the Millennium Dome into a super casino, has apologised for letting down the Labour movement in the past year.

By Graham Dines

JOHN Prescott, mired in controversy over his affair with a diary secretary and his close relationship with the American ranch owner who wants to turn the Millennium Dome into a super casino, has apologised for letting down the Labour movement in the past year.

In a farewell speech which caught delegates in Manchester by surprise, the Deputy Prime Minister said he would quit when Tony Blair leaves Downing Street.

In an emotional speech, watched by his tearful wife Pauline, Mr Prescott vowed never to leave the political fight.


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“I know in the past year I let myself down, I let you down. So conference, I just want to say sorry,” said Mr Prescott.

It means that next year, the party conference in Bournemouth will be addressed by a new leader and deputy.

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Home Secretary John Reid's powerful closing day speech on law, order and extremism has been seen as a signal that he will be the heavyweight challenger to take on Chancellor Gordon Brown in the leadership contest to take place sometime before Parliament goes into its summer recess next July.

Paying tribute to Mr Blair, his deputy said: “Tony, we all know the greatest tribute we can make to your time in office is to find within ourselves the energy, the vision, the commitment and yes, the discipline, to win an historic fourth general election victory.”

Rounding on the Conservatives, Mr Prescott showed that her is still the master of the great political quip as he attacked David Cameron.

“If David Cameron thinks that a photo shoot of him hugging a husky dog and adopting an oak tree for their (the Tories) emblem could fool the British people into thinking the Tories have fundamentally changed, he's barking up the wrong tree.”

After saying farewell his to the party, conference delegates were shown a film of Mr Prescott's time in office. The loudest cheers for a man whose popularity suffered, especially among women party members, after details of his affair became public in April, were reserved for the punch he landed on a rural campaigner during the 2001 election campaign in north Wales.

The conference ended with the traditional singing of the Red Flag.

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