It’s obviously becoming stand-up-for-oldies week.
Yesterday David Frost on his 70th birthday. Today another veteran into his
eighth decade on the planet in the form of John Prescott.

John is of course
perfectly good at standing up for himself, as anyone who followed 2001 election
visits to North Wales will remember. But in an era when politicians tend to get
coverage for all the wrong things, I thought the story  in The Sun
yesterday naming John as Britain’s laziest MP was a particularly bad example.

At his age, and having stepped down from his position as Deputy Prime Minister
when Tony Blair resigned, I think most people would consider him entitled to
take it a bit easier. But from what I can tell he hasn’t. People can have all
sorts of differences of opinion over policy, beliefs and modus operandi (it’s
Latin, John) not to mention in John’s case his ability to mangle the English
language, and there are those who will never get beyond ‘two Jags’ and an

But there are two things you have to say about JP – no matter how he
expresses it, you always know what he means. And you cannot question his
workrate. MPs are Parliamentarians and how often they speak in Parliament is
one of many indicators to measure workrate. But it is a bit much to make it the
only one.

JP campaigns as hard and as effectively as MPs half his age. The way
he has established himself as a new and strong left-of-centre voice on the
internet is evidence of his continuing strength as a politician and

Whether campaigning against bankers’ bonuses, or for the Labour
Party via Go Fourth, he puts enormous energy into this new approach, alongside
all the miles and the meetings of the old-style. He has even, despite years
baiting me about my obsession with Burnley, got into sport, as a rugby league
club director and as the author of a sports strategy for his own area.

On the
foreign side of things, he works a weekend a month in the Council of Europe,
investigated the Armenian presidential elections and, as one of the drivers of
the Kyoto Agreement, continues to plug in to policy debates on the environment.

He has never had a second paid job, and any time I see Pauline she says he
still won’t take weekends off because there’s always work to be done. Does any
or all of that make him as busy as he was as DPM? No. But Britain’s laziest MP?
I don’t think so.

I have a hunch the story was fed out by the Tory whips to
undermine and embarrass him because having shown he can still mix it
politically over bankers’ bonuses, now he has turned his fire on Tory MEP
Daniel Hannan. Hannan got himself and his party a fair bit of attention for
laying into GB at the European Parliament.

Now he is attracting attention David
Cameron would rather not have for an interview he gave in the States attacking
the NHS the Tories claim to believe in. JP has been leading the charge to get
Cameron to say or do something about Hannan. I suspect the label of laziest MP
will merely fire him up even more.