WHEN the boss is away his Deputy comes out to play.
With the Prime Minister in Spain representing Britain at the Memorial Service for the victims of the Madrid bombing, John Prescott deputised for Tony Blair at weekly questions.
As is traditional Michael Howard also made way for his deputy, Michael Ancram. This contest was a return to traditional class politics.
When Michael Howard became Tory leader he taunted Tony Blair for his affluent background saying “this grammar school boy will take no lessons from that public school boy on the importance of children from less privileged backgrounds gaining access to university.”
Of course Mr Howard’s children go to Eton, and Mr Blair’s to state schools.
No such reverse class warfare existed this week, even if John Prescott once claimed to be middle class.
Michael Ancram is in fact the Earl of Ancram, son and heir of the 12th Marquis of Lothian; although Labour backbenchers find him strangely reminiscent of Dad’s Army’s Captain Mainwaring.
John Prescott was born in Prestatyn, the son of a railway signalman.
He has often been taunted in the Commons by upper class Tories who snap their fingers and demand a gin and tonic from him, because he used to be a waiter.
This snobbery was on view when one Tory MP asked him if he would back the Plain English campaign.
His answer that the Tory might have correct grammar but his political thinking was all wrong, was as effective a retort as his thumping of the mullet-headed yob who egged him during the last General Election.
There is a lot to be said for a man who rises from humble roots to become Deputy Prime Minister; and even if we don’t always understand what he says, we always know exactly what he means.