A few weeks ago the media made something of a fuss about the fact that the discredited Deputy Prime Minister would be left "in charge" while the Prime Minister went on holiday. John Prescott actually does take over this week, yet this fuss has died down to a surprising degree.
Of course, part of the reason for this is that the media know perfectly well that Tony Blair doesn't trust John Prescott to run the country, and he won't really be doing so. Ministers have been left in charge of their own departments - any minor issues affecting more than one department might well go to the Deputy PM but if anything important comes up we all know they'll be on the phone to Tony before you can say "Middle East Crisis."
Does anyone imagine for 20 seconds that Prescott has been or will be allowed anywhere near Britain's response, such as it is, to the war which has broken out in the Lebanon? Mind you, if he had been responsible for dealing with the Middle East crisis, it is difficult to imagine that even John Prescott would have looked worse that Tony Blair has.
I fell about laughing when Prescott was interviewed by Andrew Marr last week and urged people to judge him by how well he was doing his job. I know other people have made remarks about his sex life, but if you look back to the comments I have made in previous blog entries you will see that every single criticism I have made about Prescott has related to his dire performance as a minister.
I don't give tuppence about him playing croquet, it is not my place to judge him as a husband or as a man, but as a councillor I was sick to death of dealing with the nonsense that came from his department when he had one. It is purely on his performance "on the job" that I judge that he doesn't have the ability required to be a good MP, never mind Deputy Prime Minister.
One aspect of his job performance which I do not critise in principle was his attempt to negotiate a good deal for East London and Britain over the Dome. But why oh why could he not have been honest with everyone about what he was doing? Why insult our intelligence by pretending that he went to the ranch of a Texan billionaire to discuss Wilberforce?
There are legitimate arguments for and against using a supercasino to generate investment in homes and infrastructure on the Dome site. And there are good reasons why the details of any such package would have to be negotiated in private, by somebody who is not directly in the loop of taking the planning decisions. But there was no good reason not to be straight with parliament and the British people about what was going on, or why we should not have an honest debate about the merits of the Dome proposals.
Back when this government had recently been elected and was having an internal debate about whether to go ahead with the Millenium Dome, John Prescott is supposed to have said "If we can't make this work, we're not much of a government." Even this government's sternest critics could hardly have realised at the time what an appropriate and long-lasting epitaph for the Labour government this statement would prove to be.