Prescott in Parliament

John Prescott, the sexually-challenged Deputy Prime Minister, took Parliamentary Questions for the first time since news of his carnal adventures broke. Simon Hoggart was there

He tried hard. He repeatedly told us how much work he was doing in his new job. “The prime minister felt I was able to play a role … ” (Role, roll, get it?) At this the Tories collapsed in heaps of fake laughter. Or, more worryingly, genuine laughter.

Rob Wilton pushed them towards hysteria when he asked: “What steps will you be taking to ensure that staff working under you are not subject to sexual harassment?” “Yeah!” they cried, like Texans at a rodeo. “Keep the door closed next time!” a familiar voice shouted. It turned out to be my old chum Michael Fabricant, who has clearly put his attempt to become a serious, highly regarded statesman on hold.

Labour MPs had been told to provide relief. Anne Snelgrove said the party and the country felt “pride” at the role Mr Prescott was playing. This is not, perhaps, the first response when you ask the public about him. Your average punter does not look you in the eye and say: “I’ll tell you what I feel about John Prescott. Pride! Like any right-thinking Briton!”

Mr Prescott thanked Ms Snelgrove for her supportive remarks. “Any more would be very welcome,” he said with a grin that was not just rueful but rue-sodden. But he seemed to be clawing his way to safety. His language began to disintegrate. Doctors would take this as a sign of recovery. Then it all went horribly, terribly wrong.

Dari Taylor, a Welsh Labour MP who – tragically – was only trying to help, praised his work renewing neighbourhoods. “Is he still going to have a hands-on in these areas?” she piped, and as the Tories began to collapse and wheeze, and hug themselves as if being attacked by anacondas, his smile became grimmer. The Speaker had to shut them all up….