Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was said to be delighted and surprised at the way the press handled the story of his wife’s secret “love child”, after journalists kept their secret for two years.
News that the son Pauline Prescott gave up for adoption 47 years ago had become a Tory-supporting Army of?cer was potentially tabloid dynamite.
But Sun editor Rebekah Wade sat on it for two years, only breaking the story last weekend with the co-operation of the Prescott family.
The News of the World, then edited by Wade, ?rst uncovered the story in August 2001 – a NoW reporter actually broke the news to Paul Watton of who his real mother was.
But after being contacted by the Deputy Prime Minister, Wade decided not to publish.
Over the past two years, Watton has become close to the Prescott family and in recent months they made the decision to go public.
Out of gratitude for her initial discretion, Prescott decided to give Wade, now editor of The Sun, the exclusive.
New Sun associate editor Paul Field, who handled the story, said: “John Prescott contacted Rebekah Wade and said he was very grateful for the way in which she had handled the situation previously. He said they were now in a position to talk and asked if we would work with them to organise the media coverage.”
Because Colin Brown, The Sunday Telegraph’s political editor, also had the story independently, Field brokered an unusual deal.
The Sun had the initial scoop on Saturday and the NoW and Sunday Telegraph were both given more indepth interviews and photographs.
The pictures were then released to the rest of the media via the Press Association.
Field said: “It’s very unusual for three newspapers to work together like that.”
He added: “Unless the family had cooperated it’s not the sort of story that any newspaper would publish. There are so many stories that national newspapers know about, particularly concerning personal health matters, which never see the light of day.
“As soon as the request was made from both sides not to publish this story it would have been dif?cult to do so because it was a personal family matter. It could only be done with the co-operation of both parties.
“That’s why John Prescott respected that Rebekah had taken the decision not to publish and in a sense rewarded her with the story.
“The Prescotts were delighted with all the coverage and with the way it was handled. They were full of praise for all three of the newspapers.
“I think they were probably pleasantly surprised at the way in which a newspaper was able to work closely with the subject of a story.”
Press Complaints Commission director Guy Black, who advised the Prescotts, said: “We are very pleased at the way this has gone for Mr Prescott and his family. It’s an excellent example of the Editors’ Code of Practice working in action.”
By Dominic Ponsford