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Thursday, July 06, 2006 

Prescott vs the bloggers.

While the main news story has been about Prescott's relationship with a bigoted rich American, there has been a continuing sexual undercurrent running beneath it. A few days ago, Guido decided to invite the wrath of Rosie Winterton, long mentioned in the comments and alluded to on other blogs as being another of Prescott's conquests. According to Guido, the Sun was going to name her but Rosie threatened them with Suue, Grabbit and Runne. Guido has yet to receive any legal papers.

Rosie is not the only other woman alleged to have been involved intimately with Prezza. A now Chinese diplomat apparently rebuffed his advances, and Sarah Doubled-Barreled Name gave an interview to the Blackmail on Sunday and Sunday Moron saying that she had indulged in practices which Prescott supposedly finds difficult.

As a result, both Iain Dale and Guido have been comprehensively briefed against by the New Labour machine. The Independent's Deputy Political Editor grabbed this juicy tidbit and set about devouring it, with some erroneous personal information about Guido included. Newsnight's Paul Mason has set about asking why internet sites seem immune from the libel laws, making the point that the BBC would most likely be get sued within seconds if they made similar allegations as to that which Guido has. Well, it's up to those who have been "libelled" to play their card. Either they put up or shut up.

All this is being hyped up as some kind of panic in the mainstream media about blogs stealing their readers/listeners/watchers. There's an element of truth in that, but bloggers should be more honest with themselves as well. Iain Dale on Newsnight last night said that the running on stories such as Cherie Blair's decision to sign a copy of the Hutton report for a Labour-money raising auction and on Prescott's meetings with Mr Anschutz had been by blogs. Well, yes, to an extent. Few blogs however are breaking the news themselves. The Cherie Blair story was broken by the Mail on Sunday, while Anschutz was by one of the Times papers. At the moment all blogs are doing is stirring and performing a similar job to diary and comment pages. There's no way that any of us can be claimed to be about to destroy the mainstream media. Further diversifying it, yes. Taking over from it, no.

Which brings us back to Prescott's non-sexual (we assume) exploits with Philip Anschutz. In case you haven't been keeping up, his company AEG bought the symbol of New Labour's failure (although to be fair, it was first proposed by the Tories) that is the Millennium Dome. AEG at the time bought it and said that it was intending to redevelop the dome into a "sports and entertainment arena". In less than a year, AEG were aggressively lobbying the Department of Culture, Media 'n' Sport, and making clear that they would very much like to build a major casino along with their other plans.

Between August the 15th 2002 and July the 22nd 2005 Prescott met with Mr Anschutz not once, not twice, not thrice, but seven times. The last was the trip to Anschutz's ranch, which Prescott has now declared to the parliamentary register, both after he said he didn't need to and after Philip Mawer, the commissioner for standards had started a preliminary investigation into whether it should have been or not. Mawer this morning extended his investigation into a full inquiry. Prescott has claimed that the proposed casino was not discussed, but rather err, ranch agriculture and William Wilberforce's role in ending slavery was. Seeing as Anschutz seems to think that homosexuals would be better off if they were slaves, maybe this was mentioned.

Yet Whitehall documents released yesterday to Newsnight and today's Guardian, show that an internal briefing dated July the 11th 2003 referred to a meeting between the European managing director Detlef Kornett and Richard Caborn, who was one of those responsible for the review of the gambling laws. It was apparently a follow-up to the meeting that AEG had with Prezza, further stating their intention to build a palace where idiots can go to lose money. In addition to this, civil servants in Prescott's department kept up the pressure on the culture ministers to have more meeting with AEG managers.

Prescott's predictable denials are that he has no control over those in his department deciding to do this on their own iniative, and that he never discussed Anschutz's plans for a casino when he visited him on those, err, 7 times. He hasn't explained what they did talk about, although whether Ugandian discussions were involved is thought unlikely.

All of which puts in to perspective the government's lust for extending the opportunities to gamble. It was only after concerted media pressure and rebellions that the plans were suitably scaled down, with one "megacasino" (allowed to have up to 1,250 slot machines, each with a jackpot of £1m.) eight "supercasinos" and eight smaller casinos allowed in a trial. The Conservative council of Southend has since said that it was asked by the government to reconsider its plan for a "megacasino" in favour of the scheme to redevelop the dome. Tessa Jowell's lolling on roulette tables was all part of a plan to get rid of the white elephant which was the dome. The undoing was that they hadn't bargained on the opposition to their plans.

It should perhaps go without saying that Prescott should resign. To be honest, he should have gone as soon as his affair with Temple was exposed, along with her schoolgirlish scribblings on the size of his penis. Along with it though we've seen the arrogance of the government on cracking down on opposition to it from new quarters, libellous allegations being made or not. While Labour could freely point out that Boris Johnson has been caught with his pants down twice recently, and that nowhere near as much has been made of that as has been of Prescott, anyone with half a brain can see that Prescott must go. He's lost his job, his dignity and might well be close to losing his wife. But then, how can Prescott go without Blair going at the same time? We may yet be stuck with the pair of them for a while long

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