| The front page of Daily Mirror featuring Prescott and Temple. (AFP)
London, April 26: Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has confessed he has had an affair with one of his secretaries, described as an “attractive blonde divorcee”.
Prescott, 67, who is the most senior minister in the government after Tony Blair ' he also holds the portfolio for the environment, transport and the regions ' began a relationship with a secretary, Tracey Temple, 43, in the way that many Britons do. They met at the office Christmas party in 2002.
“I did have a relationship with her which I regret,” Prescott said in a statement. “It ended some time ago. I have discussed this fully with my wife Pauline, who is devastated by the news. I would be grateful if Pauline and I can now get on with our lives together.”
Unfortunately for Prescott, privacy is the last thing he will now receive.
Although Prescott, with his working class origins, has long been a figure of fun in the eyes of the more up-market broadsheets, he frequently stands in when the Prime Minister is away, chairs a number of senior cabinet committees and has an over-arching role that allows him to coordinate the activities of several ministries.
He earned the nickname, “Two Jags”, because of his alleged fondness for office Jaguars and other large cars.
Temple lives in Hampshire with a lorry driver, Barrie Williams, 46, who told the Daily Mirror: “I feel sick. I can’t believe the woman I wanted to marry has slept with John Prescott. I’ve been betrayed by one of the most powerful men in the UK.”
Prescott has been a familiar face at India House parties, where successive high commissioners would rush off to greet him on arrival: “Please excuse me, the Deputy PM is here.”
The affair will be damaging to the government because Prescott, who has played a role in the past in bridging differences between Blair and his heir apparent, Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, will be ridiculed even more by the popular press.
The pair began working together when Temple was appointed as Prescott’s “assistant private secretary, diary manager”. At the office Christmas party in 2002, according to today’s Mirror, the couple danced together almost all night.
It is said she looked stunning in a revealing low-cut black cocktail dress which buttoned up at the back. As soon as Prescott arrived, he jokingly lifted her skirt to see if she was wearing stockings.
The next day when Prescott hosted drinks in his office for ministers, dignitaries and senior policemen, the minister and the secretary apparently lay on the office settee cuddling each other.
Later, a colleague spotted the secretary “nuzzle” the Deputy Prime Minister’s neck in the lift.
Colleagues have reported he would find excuses to wander into Temple’s department to flirt openly with her. At one party Prescott picked up a giggling Temple, twirled her in the air and then, with her legs over his shoulders, swept her unsteadily across an impromptu dance floor.
The flirtation turned into a full-fledged affair when Prescott would return to his official Whitehall flat, telephone to say he had left behind some papers and ask for Temple to deliver them. She also began to spend time alone with her boss at the Deputy Prime Minister’s 215-acre country retreat in Dorneywood, Bucks.
Prescott is very much the bluff working class lad made good. He was born in Prestatyn, Wales, in 1938, the son of a railway signalman.
In 1963, after working for 10 years as a steward in the merchant navy, he gained a diploma in economics and politics at Ruskin College, Oxford, which specialises in courses for trade union members. He later went on to gain a BSc in economics and economic history at the University of Hull.
He was elected Labour MP for Hull East in 1970, and deputy Labour leader in 1994. Following Labour’s election victory in 1997, he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, with a huge department of his own 2001 onwards.