UK

Labour big beast Prescott exits Westminster stage after more than half a century

The departure from the House of Lords has also been announced of one-time jailbirds Jeffrey Archer and Conrad Black.

Former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott
Former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott (Chris Radburn/PA)

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott has ceased to be a member of the House of Lords, marking the end of a parliamentary career stretching back more than 50 years.

The departure from the upper house was also announced of one-time jailbirds Jeffrey Archer and Conrad Black.

Labour peer Lord Prescott had only spoken once in the chamber since suffering a stroke in 2019, official records show, and he had not voted since February 2023.

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott as he gets on the Labour battlebus
Former deputy prime minister John Prescott as he gets on the Labour battlebus (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The 86-year-old was first elected as a Hull MP in 1970.

He remained in the Commons until 2010 when he joined the Lords.

The former trade union activist served 10 years as Tony Blair’s deputy prime minister after Labour’s 1997 general election landslide.

During much of that time, he acted as a mediator in the often turbulent relationship between Mr Blair and chancellor Gordon Brown.

He once famously punched a protester who threw an egg at him during an election campaign visit to North Wales in 2001.

While a loyal supporter of Mr Blair in office, Lord Prescott was subsequently critical of parts of New Labour’s legacy, denouncing Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War.

He also strongly defended Jeremy Corbyn during his time as party leader in the face of fierce criticism.

Lord Prescott was among a number of peers who Lord Speaker Lord McFall of Alcluith declared on Wednesday “had ceased to be members of the House by virtue of non-attendance in the last session of Parliament”.

He said: “In so doing, I should like to thank all the noble lords and baronesses for their many years of service to the House and Parliament.”

Others whose membership ended due to non-attendance included former media mogul Lord Black of Crossharbour.

The ex-proprietor of the Daily Telegraph and a number of other world newspapers served more than three years in prison after being convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007.

The Canadian-born British citizen was pardoned by then US president Donald Trump in 2019.

Lord Black was the former head of Hollinger International, which once owned the Daily Telegraph, Chicago Sun-Times, Jerusalem Post and hundreds of community papers in the US and Canada.

He was ennobled in 2001, having renounced his Canadian citizenship to become a Conservative peer.

His downfall came in 2007 when jurors in Chicago found that he and other Hollinger International executives swindled shareholders out of more than six million dollars (then worth around £3 million) of their money.

There are no records of Lord Black having spoken in the Lords and he had not voted since 2003.

Lord McFall also announced the retirement from the House of bestselling novelist Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare with effect from July 4.

He took his seat in the unelected chamber in 1992.

The former Tory peer had remained a member of the Lords despite being sentenced to four years in prison in 2001 after being found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice in a previous libel case when he sued a newspaper over reports about money he gave to a prostitute.

There are no records of Lord Archer having spoken in the chamber and he is shown to have voted just five times, the last in 2017 after a 17-year gap.

His only experience listed outside of Parliament was as a former president of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) – a post he held from 1997-99.