By Dominic Ponsford
The Daily Mirror is believed to have put on 30,000 sales as a result of running news of John Prescott’s affair with a civil servant.
Insiders believe this was a good result considering the fact that the story could not be trailed because of the secrecy surrounding it.
The Mirror only dropped the story into the print run after the first edition, which is viewed by rival night editors, meaning that it had a genuine scoop on Wednesday morning, with no other papers having any coverage of the Prescott story.
It is understood that the source of the news — that Prescott had conducted a two-year fling with civil servant Tracey Temple, his ex-fiance — was not only motivated by money but also by the fact that he was a Mirror reader angry at the way he had been treated.
Mirror deputy editor Conor Hanna said: "The story came about after a good, old-fashioned tip-off from a Daily Mirror reader. We knew immediately we had a dynamite story on our hands — we had a disgruntled boyfriend claiming his girlfriend had had an affair with her boss, the Deputy Prime Minister — and he had evidence to back up his claims.
"We checked out the bona fides of Barrie Williams’ claims and were very confident, very quickly."
Hanna revealed that politics editor Kevin Maguire was brought in to put the claims to Prescott — and he managed to get the Deputy Prime Minister to give a short statement and agree not to release the information before the Mirror came out.
Hanna said: "We had already decided to ‘spoof’ our first edition to prevent any of the other papers getting a sniff of the tale. A small specialist production team worked secretly on the Prescott story while the rest of the production staff carried on with the main paper. It was a watertight operation — we’ve been down this road quite a few times recently and nothing has ever leaked out.
"The first anyone knew we had a scoop was when we tipped off the broadcasters and PA at about three in the morning that they may want to have a look at what we were publishing after the first edition. We’re proud of the operation."
Reporter Stephen Moyes, who worked on the story, has ensured that he is an early frontrunner to pick up the British Press Awards scoop of the year prize next year. He picked up this year’s scoop gong after obtaining photos of supermodel Kate Moss apparently snorting cocaine at a party.
Temple sold her side of the story to The Mail on Sunday last week for a sum in excess of £100,000, according to her publicist Max Clifford.
On Saturday evening, Prescott warned that he planned to complain to the Press Complaints Commission over accuracy and intrusion issues surrounding press coverage of his affair. At the time of going to press, the watchdog had yet to receive a complaint.