Police and Crime Commissioner candidates: John Prescott (Labour)
HE’S the most famous name in the race to become Humberside’s new Police and Crime Commissioner. Jenna Thompson speaks to John Prescott, who wants to be the “voice” of the region.
HE IS the man everyone wants to beat.
Lord Prescott's entry in the race to become the first Humberside police and crime commissioner has made the election one of the most closely watched in the country.
But the Labour candidate admits his high profile could harm as well as help him.
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"Being well known has its advantages and disadvantages," he says.
"It means a lot of people have strong feelings about you."
With a political career lasting more than 40 years behind him, including a spell as deputy Prime Minister, Lord Prescott believes he has the experience to take on the job.
He likens running the force's £180m budget to heading up government departments, which he believes sets him apart from the other candidates.
"I have got national government experience, international experience and I have worked with four chief constables in Humberside during my time as an MP.
"I think that gives me a unique experience and I hope people will recognise that.
"And I do smile from time to time."
At 74, he is the oldest candidate in the race – a fact he remains unfazed by.
"I will leave judgement about my age to other people," he says.
"I think I have been doing more and getting around the area more than the other candidates.
"My wife says she worries about the stress, but that might be the stress for her because I will be working all the time.
"I can do this job – I wouldn't have entered otherwise. The more work I have done on it, the more fascinated I have become by it."
He is sitting in the back of his election 'battle bus' – a Hyundai people carrier decorated with campaign stickers.
It is in the back seats of this car that the former Hull East MP has met hundreds of residents during a tour of the Humberside force area.
In the front sits Keith Hunter, the former divisional commander of policing in Hull, who is supporting Prescott in his campaign.
The two men went head-to-head for the Labour nomination, but since Prescott's victory they have joined together to take on the other parties.
Today, both have been in Beverley and Goole, and are now sitting in the car in the shadow of the Humber Bridge – which is where Prescott would like his office to be if he is elected.
"I need to be seen more, and be more easily available than the police authority.
"I want my office to be more central to the area, around the Humber Bridge, so it is easier for everyone to access.
"Where it is now is not helpful to people on the south bank, and they feel everything goes to Hull. A more central position is important, rather than being in the city centre.
"Whether people are coming from Bridlington, Grimsby, or Market Weighton, this will be much better."
After meeting people from across the region, Lord Prescott says his priority is to protect frontline policing.
He is vowing to resist further cuts to officer numbers, in light of the 20 per cent cuts to the force's £180m budget.
As you would expect from such an experienced politician, he has done his homework.
He quotes figures and details from reports produced by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, who said the Humberside Police are cutting officers at a faster rate than any other forces.
"I don't want the plan A that is already there, I want to challenge it," he says.
"I don't accept the speed of these cuts, so I have a plan B, and I will be wanting to stop them."
Also on his agenda is cutting alcohol-fuelled crime, reducing re-offending and targeting rural crime.
"Drink is causing problems in certain areas and we need to be tougher about that," he says.
"There are certain establishments where this is frequently happening. I want to impose a levy on these problem pubs to fund the extra police involved in these crimes. To be frank, I am not a café culture man – I know 24 hour drinking was a Labour policy, but I am not a fan of it.
"Something like 35-40 per cent of violent offences are associated with drink so if we sort out the problems, we can prevent some of those taking place.
"We need social measures as well as policing measures. It is the same with drugs. They are a real problem, particularly linked to re-offending and acquisitive crime."
He says he would pioneer the introduction of neighbourhood courts, where communities would be empowered to dispense justice for low-level crimes.
"They are about the community passing judgement and members of the community then feel they are playing some part in the punishment.
"Perhaps it would also prevent the people involved offending again."
With a ministerial pension, Lord Prescott has come under fire for saying he would take the full £75,000 salary – but says he will dedicate himself to the role if he is chosen as the first commissioner.
"As a trade unionist, I take the rate that goes with the job.
"Salary doesn't come into it for me, it comes with the job, someone else has decided what it will be.
"I'm not going to bribe the electorate by saying I'll give half of it away. I will work full-time and I will be living and working up here."
He says he is relishing the prospect of a further three-and-a-half years in politics if he is elected next month.
"I look forward to that, but I have to do my homework until then and that is what I am trying to do.
"I think it is crucial to have both policing and political experience. I have national experience at government level, at cabinet level, and was actively involved in the 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime' agenda and neighbourhood policing. I have also had 40 years participating with the community in east Hull.
"Now, I want to be the people's voice for all of Humberside."