This morning's Independent carried a front page story with the headline BUSH IS CRAP SAYS PRESCOTT. It took Prescott's office several hours before issuing a denial that he had said any such thing. Even Labour MP Harry Cohen's appearance on the radio this morning (and just now on 5 Live) confirming he was at the "private" meeting at which Prescott made his remarks and heard him say it, didn't divert the Deputy PM from his vehement denials.
After a hard morning's travails running the country (well, sitting in Number Ten watching John Reid run the country and ringing up various political journalists on the Indy to berate them, I should have said) he repaired to the Terrace Cafeteria in the House of Commons for lunch. Sadly he made the mistake of sitting down near a couple of twitchy eared parliamentary researchers, one of whom has had the foresight to report to your humble servant what happened next...
"Prescott in shirtsleeves in Terrace Cafeteria with two male staff. Quite empty - plenty of free tables, but they sat at one within easy earshot of various other staff and spoke loudly (what if he were discussing state secrets?!). Conversation (with his mouth full - yuk) littered with plenty of swearing - then they got onto discussing today's headlines about his alleged remarks on President Bush.
Prescott: "All these people saying 'Prescott should be sacked' is rubbish - 80% of them agree with me"
Aide -"I haven't seen the polls, but I think you're right"
Prescott : "All this sh*t with the press…" [the rest indistinct, but something about meeting someone in a restaurant or a pub to avoid the media]
And, for someone "busy" (or "bizi" running the country, he had a leisurely time - they left lunch at around twenty to three!)
My source who witnessed the episode said:
"It was unbelieveable - he's publicly denied his comments about Bush, but today he was justifying them to his aides. And if he wanted to avoid being overheard, why did he choose one of the most gossipy places in Britain to talk about it loudly? Will he never learn? I was quite alarmed in the current climate to think he might talk about secret intelligence in the same careless way."
So it's quite clear that by him saying "All these people saying 'Prescott should be sacked' is rubbish - 80% of them agree with me", he is admitting that he did say 'Bush is crap'. Another day, another lie...