thu 27/11/2014

Prescott: The North/South Divide, BBC2 | TV reviews, news & interviews

Prescott: The North/South Divide, BBC2

The return of the big fella and his lovely lady wife

Is John Prescott’s post-political TV career a form of atonement, a retirement gift to his lovely wife Pauline and a chance for her to share centre-stage in place of the diary secretary? Whatever the reason, Pauline Prescott has taken to the limelight like an MP to expenses, benignly batting her mascara-crusted eyelashes as the couple take another of their Jag-chauffeured tours, a faintly ludicrous Old Labour twist on King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visiting East End Blitz victims.Last year’s BBC2 documentary Prescott: the Class System and Me threw up no great insights – unless you count one sobering glimpse into the remoteness of the political class: the revelation that Prescott had never before encountered the term “chav”. What sustained viewers’ interest however were the extreme class contradictions within Prescott himself – the former ship’s steward who failed his Eleven Plus but went on to become Deputy Prime Minister. Similar contradictions were present in Prescott: the North-South Divide, albeit in diluted form.

The central irony here was that Prescott, the proud northerner, Rugby League club director and chip-butty connoisseur, has spent most of his adult life amongst the soft southerners in London – and to judge by his swanky new apartment near Lambeth Palace (“a bachelor pad”, noted Pauline without apparent rancour) intends to continue doing so. As in the first film he bearded his class enemies in their lair – confronting Brian Sewell, whose main problems with northerners is that they don’t speak like Brian Sewell, and Tim Leunig, one of the authors of the Conservative think tank report that advocated abandoning northern cities for mass migration southwards.

And then it was back to Prezza’s roots – quaffing Mackeson with former Hull stevedores, and witnessing the urban regeneration of the Liverpool docks from whence the young Prescott had worked the Cunard liners. Meanwhile Pauline, an ex-manicurist herself, it transpired, had her nails done in Manchester, bigging up the warmer, homelier qualities of Coronation Street over EastEnders and all that shouting. So this was never going to be unbiased, and, okay, until last year he may not have known what a “chav” was (all power to him for his unfeigned distaste at the term), but there is no doubting Prescott’s easy ability to talk comfortably with people from all walks of life.  And to give the politician his due, behind his largely symbolic deployment by New Labour, Prescott did attempt to impose great regional autonomy on the North. It’s just that the North decided that it didn’t want it.

But back to the Prescotts’ television career. Having done class and the north-south divide, it’s hard to see what John and Pauline can tackle next without starting down the slippery slope that eventually leads to the Hamiltons. He certainly seems to care enough for what was once known as the working class to ever follow Kilroy into the proletariat gladiatorial arena. Perhaps he and Pauline should just spend some quality time together, travelling between their two lovely-looking homes and enjoying the best of both words – north and south.

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