I've just been watching John Reid's press conference. Strange, I thought, that the Deputy Prime Minister was nowhere to be seen. And then John Reid said this:
"This morning I chaired a committee of COBRA"
COBRA is the Committee which meets to oversea terrorist crises. Now I stand to be corrected on this, but I am pretty sure it is normally chaired by the Prime Minister. And if the Prime Minister is unavailable, surely it should be chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister. I am also pretty sure that in previous years Prescott has indeed chaired COBRA on occasion. Perhaps my better informed readers might email me if they recall direct examples.
John Reid also gave a long list of people he had been in touch with this morning - the PM, David Cameron, Ming Campbell, David Davis, Nick Clegg, the US Department of Homeland Security. He didn't mention the DPM at all.
So the question is this: If the Deputy Prime Minister has no role to play in this crisis, what on earth is his role, exactly?
UPDATE: 4.23pm. This is what Downing Street were briefing to the Press Association on 4 August "Mr Prescott will co-ordinate Britain's response to the Middle East conflict in the PM's absence by overseeing relations between the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development. He will also chair any meetings of the Government's Cobra committee, which is convened at times of crisis in national security."
UPDATE: 5.06 Just received on the Newsnight email: "[Tonight] our political editor Martha Kearney is examining the political response, the public scepticsm and asks what exactly is John Prescott's role in this crisis." Aren't we all, Martha? Aren't we all...