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Key aide backs Prescott over 'grace and favour' home

There are more important things to concentrate on than Dorneywood
There are more important things to concentrate on than Dorneywood

JOHN PRESCOTT’S decision to relinquish his "grace and favour" mansion has helped quell unrest among Labour backbenchers, according to the Gillingham MP Paul Clark, one of his key his aides.

The Kent MP, parliamentary private secretary to the deputy prime minister, said he had acted to try and draw a line under the affair and in recognition of the fact that press interest was distracting attention away from his job.

Mr Prescott has been fending off criticism after being pictured playing croquet in the mansion’s grounds when he was deputising for Mr Blair and was temporarily in charge of the Government.

Mr Clark said: "John acted having listened to the concerns being expressed by the public and MPs who were telling him that Dorneywood was an issue. There are more important things to concentrate on than Dorneywood.

"I am sure there will be elements of the media that will attempt to keep the saga going but people will recognise his commitment to delivering the agenda for change."

He rejected the suggestion that Mr Prescott had been wrong to hold on to Dorneywood, which is in Buckinghamshire, when Tony Blair stripped him of his departmental responsibilities in the cabinet reshuffle.

"As Deputy Prime Minister, there are security issues to consider and decisions are made about that by professionals who we pay to protect our senior politicians. I can tell you that he recently went away for a holiday at a hotel and had to give up after two days because of the press surrounding him," he said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Prescott said: "Like other Cabinet ministers before me I’ve used Dorneywood as a place to stay to relax and to work, but I am well aware that my use of it is now a subject of public controversy and criticism and a matter of concern amongst some MPs and the Labour Party."

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