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Headache for Blair: Dy PM admits affair

Prescott, a close political ally of Tony Blair, admitted to having had a two-year relationship with Tracey Temple.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 16:15 IST

Britain's beefy and pugnacious deputy prime minister, John Prescott, confessed on Wednesday to having had a clandestine affair with a secretary 24 years his junior.

Prescott, 67, a close political ally of Prime Minister Tony Blair, admitted to having had a two-year relationship with Tracey Temple, 43, after it was exposed by a daily newspaper.

"I did have a relationship with her which I regret. It ended some time ago. I have discussed this fully with my wife Pauline who is devastated by the news," he told the tabloid.

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

A spokesman for Blair declined to comment on the revelation, saying only: "It is a private matter."

But it adds to a growing plate of problems for Blair ahead of local council elections in Britain next week -- the first ballot-box test of his popularity since last year's general election.

If his Labour Party suffers big losses, Blair could face renewed calls to resign as prime minister to make way for his more popular finance minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.

Prescott, alias "Prezza", a bear of a man who has cabinet responsibility for housing and urban development, relishes his image as a Welsh-born working-class boy done good.

Nicknamed "Two Jags" for his love of big cars, the one-time merchant seaman is best remembered for punching -- on live television -- an egg-throwing countryside protester in the face during the 2001 general election.

He has had two sons with his wife, and has been a Labour member of parliament since 1970 for Hull East, a gritty seaside constituency in the east of England.

The newspaper, which editorially supports Labour, reported on Wednesday that staff at the office of the Deputy Prime Minister were shocked by the way that Prescott flirted with Temple, a diary secretary, at work.

They were said to have started the affair at an office Christmas party in 2002 when they danced together almost all night.

Temple herself was going out at the time with a cab driver, Barrie Williams, from Hampshire in southern England.

"I just can't believe that my darling Tracey has been sleeping with John Prescott behind my back," Williams, 46, now a trucker, told the daily.

"How dare he split up my relationship with the woman I'd planned to marry?"

The last Blair minister to be involved in a sex scandal was David Blunkett, who resigned as home secretary in December 2004 after his fling with Kimberley Fortier Quinn, the married publisher of the Spectator magazine, came to light.

He accepted responsibility for his office having fast-tracked a work visa application from a Filipina nanny working for Quinn, who broke off the relationship when it became public.