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JP hits the road again

Posted on 29 April 2009 | 6:04pm

You can take the man
out of the leadership, but you can’t take the leadership out of the man.

Oh, he will love that
one will John Prescott. He always had a soft spot for my soundbite-crafting. He
just didn’t like people to know.

How many times did he
tell me that he couldn’t be doing with the spin and the slogans? As he once
memorably said, is this what it has all come to, fuckin’ words mumbo-jumbo blah
blah blah? — but truth be told one man’s spin is another man’s communications,
and one thing for sure – JP is a bloody good communicator, no matter where the
verb sometimes ends up.

So twelve years on from
the day of the 1997 General Election that brought us to power, JP having put in
thousands of miles on his battlebus during that campaign, what will he be up to
this May Day weekend? He’s back on the road again.

Not for JP the quiet
life of the pensioner. Nor for him any defeatism that says the polls are bad,
the economic numbers are bad, and so we might as well head home and just wait
for the Old Etonian brigade to take over.

He will hotfoot from
Jack Jones’s funeral in Peckham on Friday morning, (May Day) get up to
Liverpool to launch the tour with Eddie Izzard (yes, him again, I told you he
was serious) and then the Prescott Express battle bus will visit 12 towns and
cities across the Bank Holiday Weekend, finishing on Monday in Hull.

And because he is a
canny old bugger, and he knows Burnley have a vital home match on Sunday, he
has roped me in for the Keighley leg on Saturday (my birthplace) and a rally in
Leeds in the evening. He has threatened to drive his battlebus himself, so I
will be making my own transport arrangements.

You can get details of
all the places he will be visiting  on the Go Fourth website. He is trying
to fund the weekend’s events, Obama-like, through small donations which people
can make at

And, further cementing
his position as someone who ‘gets’ the new media, even if he thinks media is a
dirty word, supporters and voters will be able to follow his progress on the Go
Fourth website, as he campaigns across the North, via Google Map, Twitter, vlog
films and his blog. People will be invited by Facebook and ‘old’ media to join
him and Labour’s European candidates to talk politics at each stop. ‘Traditional
campaigning in a modern setting,’ he calls it. You see, he’s not bad at the
soundbites either.

Together with Dick
Caborn and Glenys Kinnock, JP and I launched Go Fourth at last autumn’s party
conference when things were particularly difficult for Gordon and the
government. They are certainly difficult again now, and all the more reason for
Labour supporters to get out there defending the record, spelling out the
reality of the Tory Party, and engaging in debate on policy ideas for the

  • Tony

    Go JP!

    When elder party statesmen are fully engaged in the current policy debate instead of the re-waging the battles of the past, they can be the most effective weapon in a campaign arsenal, I reckon.

  • Paul Marsh

    It’s great that he is still doing this, but I wish the younger Labour ministers were half as active and high profile.

  • Alison Stead

    Agree with Tony – also it is good that our former leaders, or in this case deputy, tend to remain supportive of those who take over – in contrast with the Tories whose leaders had a long habit of trying to back seat drive. I know I shouldn’t but I used to feel sorry for John Major when he had Heath and Thatcher on the prowl.

  • Alina Palimaru

    What an amazing pool of energy this man has! AC, I liked the intro a lot!

    Regarding self-defeatism… Barack Obama just reminded reporters last night that he was originally 30% behind in the Iowa polls, and eventually won the Iowa caucus. Good lesson for Labour! There is plenty of time left to take on the Tories’ weak policy platform. There is a strong Labour record to defend. And there is a fourth campaign to be won. Is this going to require a lot of work? Yes. Is victory impossible? Certainly not.

    I hope people go out to rally with JP.

  • Alina Palimaru

    Correction: Below I meant 30 points not 30%.

  • james

    So what would you advise JP or Eddie Izzard to say if on the campaign trail someone asks them:

    “So is this broken manifesto pledge over 50p just temporary until the public finances recover, or is it here to stay?”

  • henck van bilsen

    Good Morning Alistair,
    Thanks for your kind words regarding my talk at Mind in Hertford. Although ‘burly’ as a descriptor of me briefly lead to the beginning of a hint of discombobulation until my wife assured me that ‘burly’ was a correct description of myself! Also, would be interested to hear what you thought of the ‘SOCKS OF DOOM’. No e-mail so used your blog for communication. All the best. HvB

  • Tim F

    I still have nightmares about those bloody buses….!!!

  • Jane Thomas

    Last night I was with Eddie Izzard and Hilary Benn at Leeds University. It was great to share a platform with someone who is so interested and interesting in politcs but doesnt (yet) regard himself as a politician. Its a great way to bridge the gap between politicians and the public – although I always think that gap is more perceived than real.

    The mainly student audience at Leeds were receptive, interested, engaged and asked some very pertinent questions.I think if he does this again it would be good to give some time to “mingling” afterwards although I know thats difficult if you then have to go and do another show.

    I tried to persuad him that doing the Left Field tent at Glastonbury would be brilliant – although not such a brilliant idea of my part as Ive just found out that they arent doing it this year!

    However I look forward to seeing what Eddie does with the Talking Politics roadshow. I know he has plans and that this will evolve and wish him every success. A really nice and interesting man who has a lot to contribute culurally, socially, politcally.

    And on that note looking forward to seeing John Prescott and yourself in Keighley at the weekend.

  • gary Enefer

    Dear AC

    Nice to see so much happening with talks,comedians, roadshows and buses.

    I don’t believe in ”one man’s spin is another…”. I feel spin has always been about lying and twisting and at best a bad habit.I am afraid to say I have used spin a lot to get what I want, feeling the other party is fair game in an exchange of views or requirements,(thank you for teaching me spin!) but struggle to break this awful habit!
    gary enefer , Sussex

  • Des Currie

    I cannot imagine either the Labour or the Conservatives taking part in the elections on principal. I go with Gordon Brown, the best of rather a bad bunch, from perspective over the horizon, the rest, alas, I do not know.
    Des Currie

  • Terry Evans

    This man is so dedicated to the Labour cause. I don’t know where he gets his energy from, he’s an inspiration and I hope that he manages to get the message out that we are hoping for. Let’s hope that the media coverage of John’s tour is positive as he is campaigning in the traditional way not trying to manipulate and soundbite. Go Fourth John and have a great weekend. (I hope that you buy him a pint AC, he will have earned it)

  • tamba charlotte

    je vous écris en français car j’ai écouté votre intervention sur une télé française.
    vous avez notamment travaillé auprès de l’ancien premier ministre tony blair, si j’ai bien écouté. a quoi consiste votre travaille exactement?

  • Mike Barlow

    British politics USED to have characters, regardless of party allegiance…big, bold, outspoken, not celebrity, just totally unaware and certainly unafraid to buck conformity.

    That was then, this is now.

    Faceless, humourless, personality-less drones who are basically dour individuals with no apparent leanings towards independent thought or, indeed, their constituents.

    You’ve got to hand it to JP…he is NOT of the new school, he’s firmly of the old school yet entrenched in modern day issues.

    Not a dinosaur, not a relic…..but a rarity in modern society.

    Working class hero….he’s certainly a candidate for the honour, very few others are.


  • Keith

    John Prescott has just put in a robust and entertaining performance on a BBC Radio Merseyside phone in. Liverpudlians don’t mince their words, but he dealt with each caller with good grace, a bit of humour and probably earned the grudging respect of those who disagreed with him.

    Whatever you think about his views, you can’t deny he stands head and shoulders above many of the career minded, android like MPs inhabiting large chunks of the Commons, on both sides of divide. Thank goodness guys like him (and Ken Clarke amongst the flimsy, plastic shadow cabinet) are still knocking about.

  • gary Enefer

    Kind words for JP – does he want to say something on your blog – as Eddie did?

    Just read your Twitter about Wattbike and googled Wattbike – very good and endorsed by British Cycling. I have taken up cycling and bought a Trek 1.5 roadbike.

    best wishes,gary

  • Marek

    Are you feeling relaxed about having incited a needless war?

    What about the orphans ?

    Instead of polishing your ego in this fashion you should go to Iraq and help those who are still suffering from your hubris.

  • barlick64

    Hi Alastair

    Thanks for all you do for our club.
    Fingers crossed for Sunday

  • Joni

    It will never go away.

    You know what you did in 2003.

  • Alina Palimaru

    Joni and Marek:

    Give it a rest please. That page was turned a long time ago. Move on. Thanks!

  • gary Enefer

    Dear AC
    Thank you Alina. I enjoy the blog and Iraq has turned around largly due to this govt and our wonderful armed forces.

    Can you guys accedde to Alina’s request and move on or away from this blog please? You have definitely made you point and I appreciate your concerns over this govt’s history re the War.
    God love and bless you both

  • Jane A

    He’s certainly got the weather for it. I hope it goes well, and that JP turns the battle(mini)bus south sometime soon. To see it parked in Henley market square would be excellent.