Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

PRESCOTT: MY SECRET LOVER; Two-Year Secret Fling with His Divorced Secretary Deputy PM Accused of Exploiting Official Position

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

PRESCOTT: MY SECRET LOVER; Two-Year Secret Fling with His Divorced Secretary Deputy PM Accused of Exploiting Official Position

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

JOHN PRESCOTT today faces difficult questions over his affair with a civil servant.

It follows his confession that he had a two-year romance with one of his secretaries, 43-year-old divorcee Tracey Temple.

The revelations have made him an object of ridicule at Westminster, where the Deputy Prime Minister has frequently made jokes about Tories embroiled in sex scandals.

But it took a serious turn with disclosures that he may have exploited his official position.

The pair flirted in his ministerial office, apparently to the discomfort of other civil servants present.

The couple also met secretly in his Whitehall flat and his grace- and- favour country retreat, Dorneywood.

Ms Temple was photographed beside his battle bus during last year's general election - despite strict Whitehall rules that civil servants must not take part in elections, either voluntarily or at the behest of their ministers.

Mr Prescott, 67, said today: "I did have a relationship with her which I regret. It ended some time ago."

He said he had told his wife of 44 years, Pauline, who was "devastated by the news".

He added: "I would be grateful if Pauline and I can now get on with our lives together."

The disclosure is a fresh blow to Labour, coming on top of the "cash for peerages" row, NHS cutbacks and party tensions over when Tony Blair will stand down.

With just over a week to the council elections, the timing could not be worse for the Prime Minister, who is anxious about falling party morale. It comes on the day that Charles Clarke was forced into an emergency statement about the bungled release of foreign prisoners and Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt faced a hostile reception from nurses at their conference.

Mr Blair immediately made clear he would not ask for Mr Prescott's resignation - nor had he offered it.

But No 10 appeared cool because officials refused to answer detailed questions, in contrast with their eagerness to help Mr Clarke.

Mr Prescott cancelled all engagements and was thought to be trying to mend his marriage. A spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister said: "I cannot say when he will return to official duties next. …

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