John Prescott attacks former Labour colleagues over leadership contest

John Prescott

John Prescott has launched an attack on some of his former Labour colleagues over the party’s leadership contest, telling the former foreign secretary David Miliband to “shut up” and urging Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell to “stay at home”.

Prescott, a former Labour deputy leader who is backing Stella Creasy for the same role, dismissed some of the candidates in the party’s leadership election as little more than inexperienced researchers.

He also revealed he wanted Ed Miliband to stay as party leader for longer, claiming Miliband had instead “run away after taking a hammering”. He said he would like to see the field for the leader and deputy leadership contests expanded.

Walthamstow MP Creasy is promising “to build a movement not a machine”. Her camp says it is a matter of time before she secures the 35 nominations from fellow MPs required to get on to the ballot paper next week and unveiled support from 100 local councillors.

John Healey, the former housing minister quit the field on Thursday, saying he did not want to see the contest reduced to two or three people. He said his departure as the candidate with the greatest number of nominations short of the 35 required was the best chance of widening the field.

His decision to stand aside boosts the chances of the remaining four – the former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, the head of the Labour national policy forum, Angela Eagle, and Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. Bradshaw is still optimistic he can get within striking distance of the 35 required, but it may depend on MPs such as whips being willing to nominate.

Prescott said the requirement to get 35 nominations – 15% of the parliamentary Labour party – was too high. He said the field was too limited and urged for more candidates to get into the field.

Prescott told the BBC Daily Politics: “The trouble is it’s too limited. You have to get quite a lot and I’m sure some of those other candidates are saying ‘can I get 35 from the PLP?’ I think it’s too limited. I was against this 15% percentage. The party was offered 10%: that means you’d have to get 24.

Prescott reserved his toughest words for David Miliband, saying his criticisms of his brother’s election campaign were “terrible”.

“He should shut up. Look, we’ve gone through that period, the Miliband period is now gone. We’re not looking to a period where he emerges as another Miliband interpretation. I don’t think that’s possible. Get on with your international job.”

He also attacked Campbell, the former Downing Street press secretary, for suggesting he will personally make an effort to remove any new party leader who is failing after three years. Prescott said: “Alastair should know better. What does he mean? He’s going to tell us whether it’s alright in three years? It’s going to take us more than three years to get this party back into shape, win the election and the trust. Does he then come in on these arguments and say ‘you’ve not satisfied my task and I’m now going to attack you?’ Come on. Stay at home, Alastair.”

Writing on his blog, Campbell said: “I like Ed personally but I am afraid the many among the public never saw him as a prime minister and though he campaigned well we never got the right economic or electoral strategy in place. A good campaign cannot be called a good campaign without a good strategy.

“But if in two or three years’ time it is obvious from all we see and hear from the public that the new leader is not winning, and it is obvious we are not going to get close to winning an election, I will not bite my tongue and I will encourage others not to bite their tongues and I will happily lead the charge to try to replace whoever is leader.”

Prescott also laid into the quality of some of the leadership candidates. “They want to run for leader before they’ve got any experience and it’s showing. For Chuka Umunna to say he was amazed the way the press … for God’s sake. What was he doing the last few years?”

He also attacked Liz Kendall for saying she supported achieving a budget surplus and her relative inexperience in Westminster. “I don’t think researchers running for leader in four years … It’s not my idea,” he said.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Patrick Wintour Political editor, for theguardian.com on Thursday 11th June 2015 16.47 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010