There is one fascinating counterfactual to emerge from Prezza. It concerns the incident when he punched an egg-throwing protester in Wales during the 2001 general election. He includes a photo of the punch, a solid left jab right on the man’s chin. There was a furore, which Prescott survived because the public (not the papers, not at first) were largely on his side. But Prescott was an amateur boxer in his youth, and on page 118-19 there is a photo of him landing what looks like a knockout punch on an opponent. He is right-handed, and the knockout punch was a right. Here is the counter-factual: if 16-stone Prescott had hit the egg-thrower with his right, he would have knocked him out, and quite likely have broken his jaw. If either of those things had happened – if the man had ended up in hospital – Prescott would have had to resign. Whoever Blair appointed as his new deputy prime minister would have had much less pull with the party, because no one had as much pull with the party as Prescott. So when the crucial vote on the Iraq war came, Blair wouldn’t have had a deputy able to bring the party onside in the way that Prescott did. Instead of 139 Labour MPs voting against the war, a majority of them would have voted against, Blair would (as he said in private) have had to resign, and we wouldn’t have gone to war. And all because, for once, a New Labour figure didn’t lean to the right.
John Lanchester on Prezza in the LRB