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Animal Farm

by | 5th, July 2006

THE good news is that for two days last July John Prescott was definitely not in private conference with his secretary Tracey Temple in his Westminster offices or London flat.

This is because for those two days the man who for reasons mysterious remains our Deputy Prime Minister was at the 32,000-acre Colorado ranch of American billionaire Phillip Anschutz, as the Telegraph reports.

Mr Anschutz’s ranch sounds like a nice enough place. There are no croquet greens but, as the Times notes, there is a nine-hold golf course, hunting facilities and a health spa.

The place is conducive to fine conversation. Indeed, as the Telegraph says, it was a chance for Prescott and Anschutz “to share their interest in William Wilberforce, the anti-slavery campaigner, who was born in Mr Prescott’s Hull constituency”.

It seems like a long way to go to talk about history, but Prescott is an educated man, so we are told, and if the pursuit of knowledge means jetting off to Colorado, then so be it. In any case, he was already in the States on business.

And such was the excitement, that Prescott, apparently, forget to declare the American visit in the register of members’ interests. But he did see things right, making a donation –which the Times says was paid by the taxpayer – of £40 per person per night to cover the cost of his stay.

Which is all well and good – so long as in the course of his stay Prescott did not talk shop. Had he done, he would have broken the code of conduct for ministers.

As Prescott says in a letter to the Conservative Party, he did not. “I spent [Sunday] travelling around the large cattle ranch, discussing with ranch staff the issues and problems of running a large-scale farming enterprise.” And perhaps a little of the aforesaid Wilberforce.

But hold on a moment. The Telegraph says that Mr Anschutz was involved with the consortium that gained contol of the Millennium Dome in 2004. The group now wants to site a super casino there.

But it’s all right because Prescott isn’t involved with casino policy. It was only last Monday that Richard Caborn, the minister for gambling, said Prescott had "had no role in planning, had no role in negotiation and has had no role in the siting of casinos".

Which is, er, why as the Telegraph says Prescott visited Australia’s Sydney Star City Casino complex in November 2004 – his officials said the visit was "official business. . . to get a feel for what an establishment of that size was like".

In case this confuses you a little, a spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister emphasises the point. Says she in the Telegraph: "The Deputy Prime Minister has no responsibility for casinos. Any licences for casinos will be made by an independently appointed DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport] panel.”

No problem, then…

Posted: 5th, July 2006 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink