Prescott: Extermination edges nearer
The newspapers seem certain that John Prescott's days in office are numbered, and despite there being no smoking gun, they've not been afraid to put the boot in.
The Mail on Sunday comes the closest anyone in the mainstream media has to confirming Prescott had an affair with fellow Labour minister, Rosie Winterton, with a two–page article on the influence Winterton has had on Prescott's career.
Read between the lines of the 'profile' piece and you get the idea of what's been going on:
no woman has exerted more influence over Mr Prescott than bubbly blonde Ms Winterton
Note newspapers only refer to women as 'Ms Anything' if they're involved in something.
Her loyalty has been richly rewarded.
She is proud of her trim figure and keeps her tan topped up through the winter. Her short skirts and knee–high boots have raised some eyebrows, but her fun–loving manner has made her popular on all sides.
And about John and Rosie:
"They've always been special friends. They get on tremendously well and she knows how to handle John"
Commons observers couldn't help but notice that Tracey Temple, the secretary with whom Mr Prescott conducted an affair, bears a certain resemblance to Ms Winterton.
Other than these highly subtle references to how well they get on, it's only in the last paragraph that the newspaper goes for the bleeding obvious:
Asked if she had had an affair with Mr Prescott, Ms Winterton said last night: "Absolutely not".
Knowing the rumours, the piece is hilarious to read as the puns, metaphors and allusions come thick and fast. It won't have any impact on Prescott's chances of keeping his job, and to be honest isn't really very interesting (it's more of a Westminster in–joke). But the revelations in other newspapers, while small, are keeping up the pressure on Prescott and will quite probably bring his Deputy Leadership to an end this week.
David Miliband and Jack Straw have been suggested as interim replacements (until the Party Conference in September). But if Blair wants to take the heat off his government's incompetence, he'll have to switch Prescott quickly, or else today's subtle allusions will become full–on allegations next weekend.