Prescott is leading light in Labour?s use of new media

Author: By Michael Savage, Political Correspondent

Since then, at the tender age of 71, Mr Prescott has become an unlikely
leading light in Labour?s use of new media, helped every step of the way by
his son, David, who co-ordinates his use of blogging, Facebook and Twitter.
Though the former Deputy Prime Minister admits to having been ?a bit
sceptical? at first, joining Facebook was a revelation. ?All of a sudden I
had 5,000 friends,? he said. ?I?ve never had 5,000 friends in all my life.?
It was not long before he realised its potential. Soon after joining the
social networking site, he told his Facebook friends that he would be around
in Sheffield for a chat before a party fundraiser. When he arrived at the
venue, 200 people had turned up for a quick word.

It was his army of online followers that helped him make a crucial decision ?
whether to buy an iPhone or a Blackberry. ?I asked them which I should get,?
he said. ?One guy came back and said, ?Well, get them both, John ? you?ve
got two Jags’.? In the end he opted for a Blackberry. ?I found the iPhone a
bit too sensitive,? he explained. ?You press one thing and two things come
up.?

Sceptical users who believed that Mr Prescott was not really behind his
growing online profile were soon trying to catch him out. One challenged him
to use the words ?coconut shy? in a forthcoming interview, a feat he managed
with relative ease. ?It?s important that people believe it?s really you,? he
said. ?Secondly, it?s important you are a character ? I think I can accept
the character role. You have to use humour, too, which I like.? The height
of his success came with a campaign against bonuses for executives at
Britain?s bailed-out banks. His online petition attracted 30,000 signatures
and earned him a meeting with Stephen Hester, the head of RBS.

He is now using the technology as a quick rebuttal system, similar to the
tactics pioneered by Alastair Campbell in the mid-1990s. ?I can do a video
blog and in 15 minutes it can be on the BBC,? he said. ?We did that after a
protester threw green custard over Peter Mandelson. Now that?s a whole new
world altogether.?

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