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Blundering Prescott is the 'gaffer'.

JOHN Prescott yesterday showed he was "gaffer" in more ways than one.

The Deputy Prime Minister is in charge while Tony Blair is on holiday. And he also became blunderer in chief with a series of embarrassing gaffes as he rallied party activists.

In a speech in Southgate, north London, he:

REFERRED to local MP Stephen Twigg's majority of 16,000. In fact it is a wafer-thin 1,433.

WELCOMED a neighbouring Labour MP as Joy Ryan. Her name is Joan.

CLAIMED pensions had risen 78p - it was 75p.

CALLED the OAP winter fuel allowance the "cold fuel weather allowance".

REPEATEDLY tripped up on his words, declaring: "Labour has delivered on what it has delivered".

READ the same line of his prepared speech twice.

ASKED the audience if anyone had used the NHS Direct phone line - the Government's flagship scheme to ease pressure on hospitals and GPs - only to be met with silence.

URGED members to use their party pledge cards from the last election to hammer home their message, but could not find his in his pocket and flourished a Labour beer mat instead.

Mr Prescott has been left minding the shop while Mr Blair takes a three-week family holiday in Italy and France. Downing Street insists the Prime Minister, who is due to return to work on August 29, is still in charge.

The Deputy PM used the speech to attack the "callous" Tories.

He claimed: "Beneath the rhetoric of compassionate conservatism lurks the same pandering to fear and prejudice."

Although well ahead in the polls, Labour fears the Tories are beginning to make inroads and is keen to rally the faithful ahead of its autumn conference and the countdown for the general election expected next year.
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Author:Morris, Nigel
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 16, 2000
Words:289
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