Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tory public schoolboys snigger at Prescott, but he has the last laugh

I caught a glimpse of the exchange between William Hague and John Prescott in the Commons today.

First of all, it was good to see John Prescott looking strong, after what must have been a fairly devastating bout of pneumonia.

Bizarrely the exchange got on to the classics. Prescott said:

"It seems that while I was away the Leader of the Opposition had something to say about me too."

"He described me as a cross between Ernie Bevin and Demosthenes."

To roars of laughter from the Tory benches, he added. "When I read classics and Greek mythology at the Ellesmere Port Secondary Modern School we learnt about Narcissus.

"He died because he could only love his own image. He was all image and no substance."

Mr Hague said: "I'm sure 'Dame Osthenes' will be very flattered that he has singled her out for praise today."

Cue: Self-satisfied and snobbish laughter all round from the former public school and Grammar school boys on the Tory benches.

But the last laugh is on Prescott. He has had this public schoolboy snickering at his syntax and language throughout his career. But he was grafted his way up from waiting on tables in the merchant navy, via Ruskin college to being Deputy Prime Minister for ten years. It is a major achievement. While I feel no empathy towards Blair, I do feel some warmth towards Prescott. With all his bumbling marginal competence, his gaffes and his right cuts, and while not minimising his adultery on government property, he is a real "man's man" in the old fashioned sense of the phrase. Despite his and the government's errors, the Labour government has been fortunate to have him as a stable backbone over the last ten years.


  1. If you were a resident of Prescott's Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder or in fact a victim of any of his good ideas then i doubt you would be so sympathetic towards him

  2. Of course, Hague went to a comprehensive school.

    I also object to your inverse snobbishness over public schools. Rather than slighting them we should seek to encourage them and find means to enable even the poorest to attend what are simply often far superior schools to state schools.

  3. Tristan _ I was referring perhaps clumsily to the people around Hague who laughed. As a scholarship boy who attended public school only because I won a scholarship (my parents wouldn't have otherwise afforded it) and who actively and financially supports my old school to take pupils from poorer backgrounds, I agre with what you say about encouraging public schools to take more "poor" children.

  4. Anon - I did note his errors and exclude them from my praise.