Forget Prescott's sex life...

TWO headlines caught my eye this week: “Lardy and the tramp”; and “Fight to stop East Anglia's destruction”.They appeared in two very different papers (though I have worked for both) and, on the face of it, referred to two very different stories.

TWO headlines caught my eye this week: “Lardy and the tramp”; and “Fight to stop East Anglia's destruction”.

They appeared in two very different papers (though I have worked for both) and, on the face of it, referred to two very different stories.

Both, though, were blood-pressure raisers. And one name appeared in both: John Prescott.

At 67 years old and heaven knows how many inches of waistline, the deputy prime minister is an unlikely sex symbol.

Power, presumably, was the aphrodisiac that turned Tracey Temple on. It can hardly have been Prezza's athletic physique or suave good looks. Still, a fellow's choice of bedroom companions should have no impact on his professional standing.

Let his wife kick him out if she wishes, but there's no reason why a casual affair should affect his position in government.

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Sex between consenting adults in private is nobody's business but their own, and perhaps their partners'.

Steve McLaren is no less fitted to the job of England football manager for having slept with his secretary.

If that were a disqualification, Sven Goran Eriksson would have been out long ago (as he should have been - but not for that reason).

In Prescott's case, though, the issue is rather more serious.

Miss Temple, by her own account, was hardly a blushing maiden when she and Prescott began their dangerous liaison. All the same, if we are to believe all we hear, his advances to her were not altogether tasteful.

As lady-killing manners go, his technique was apparently rather lacking in finesse. The sort of thing most blokes grow out of, surely, about the time they start shaving.

Prescott has also been accused of similar uncouthness towards Labour Party aide Tricia McDaid in 1992. Unlike Temple, she was not wooed, and not much impressed.

Both Temple and McDaid are a good deal younger than Prescott. Both had jobs they might have feared to lose if they upset or embarrassed him.

Back-bench Labour MP Geraldine Smith rightly describes Prescott's behaviour towards them as an abuse of power.

And it's not just female subordinates who have felt defiled by the Humberside hulk.

I drove the other day from Suffolk to Buckinghamshire, a regular journey that is getting less and less familiar.

From Cambridge to Milton Keynes, the countryside is filling up with homes and roads.

England's green and pleasant land is steadily disappearing under tarmac, brick and concrete - and not slowly, either.

As I dodged the roadworks and crawled past the newly created town of Cambourne, I thanked my lucky stars it wasn't happening here in Suffolk. But is it only a matter of time before it does?

Once, local planning officers were supposed to guard against this sort of thing. These days the Department of the Deputy Prime Minister is revving up the bulldozers.

It took the combined forces of English Heritage, the Victorian Society, the Prince's Foundation and strongly engaged local opposition to stop Prescott's gang from flattening thousands of decent homes at Nelson, in Lancashire.

And that is only one of many places across northern England blighted by the insane Pathfinder project.

Now the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England are linking up to try to prevent 58,000 new homes being built in Suffolk.

They are fighting against a nightmare. The special historic and rural nature of our county simply could not survive such destructive development.

It's not even necessary in a country that already has, at the most conservative estimate, 700,000 empty homes.

That's not counting the 350,000 second homes - a figure expected to double in the next ten years, with Suffolk sure to be hit by far more than its fair share.

Instead of rushing to build more houses, we might start by applying high local taxation to second homes.

But that might sound too socialist for the present government. They wouldn't want that kind of power to fall into local hands, either.

The trouble is, in this undemocratic democracy of ours, the ultimate decision on all such matters rests with just one man.

A man who has already done to too much of England what he did to Tracey Temple.

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NEXT time you're thinking of putting on a pantomime - for a kids' party, say - you'll know just who to contact. The international committee of the Football Association.

As long as you don't expect them to arrange a party for the grown-ups afterwards, in a brewery.

So the Brazilian turned out to be a red herring. Take him away and what are you left with? The answer you first thought of!

Mr Worthy-but-Dull McLaren at least represents continuity. Which may or may not be a good thing.

His first England squad selection, for the European qualifying games against Andorra and Macedonia in September, will be interesting.

It will tell us how much the turgid predictability of the last five years has been down to his coaching. And how much he has been reined in by Mogadon Man.