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On that bombshell

Nick Robinson | 13:33 UK time, Thursday, 27 April 2006

Yesterday I said I had been told the story about John Prescott's affair "was a bombshell to Prescott's colleagues and family". A few of you raised eyebrows to that word "bombshell".

Reader George Mason said:

How can you say you Prescott's escapades are a bombshell when the majority of lobby journalists and even research assistants in Parliament have declared this to have been a long-term open secret?

And blogger Guido Fawkes wrote: "It was hardly a bombshell to the lobby or his colleagues."

I should have been more precise. This relationship revealed at this time was a bombshell. The phrase 'long-term open secret' is journalistic code for 'everyone's heard the gossip but no-one's proved it because if they had they would have printed it'.


Or, if someone had the guts, given the UK's strict libel laws, we'd print it. There's countless open secrets because politicians are as flawed as the rest of us.

I'm afraid I'm of the generation that has firmly associated the word bombshell with Alan Partridge. He closed many of his chat shows with 'on that bombshell'.

  • 2.
  • At 05:47 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Anne Wotana Kaye wrote:

Clarke's performance on the job is a disgrace. Hewitt is also a failure, albeit a patronising one, in her post. Prescott's behaviour is that of an immoral man, and unless he fornicated in working hours and used government monies to treat his mistress, then it is not of public concern.
What is of concern, however, is that Clarke's negligence endangers public security, and Hewitt's mismanagement will probably cost lives. Two ministers who are a public danger, and yet who do the citizens of this land want to read about? If the tabloids are to be believed, the public is first and foremost interested in the groppings of a fat old man!

  • 3.
  • At 06:08 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • anon wrote:

"'everyone's heard the gossip but no-one's proved it because if they had they would have printed it'."

since when did the media need to prove something before printing it

so, what more 'long-term open secrets' about our elected politicians are you, an employee of a public service, keeping from the us, the electorate?

  • 5.
  • At 11:05 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • James wrote:

Come on, Nick... Which other 'long-term open secrets' are we paying you to keep from us?

  • 6.
  • At 01:23 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Karl wrote:

Nick, if it was such an open secret it begs the question as to why someone didn't research such an obviously juicy story and release it through the media earlier?

  • 7.
  • At 09:24 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • MTK wrote:


The problem we voters and taxpayers have is that while we are willing to accept that a something like this is none of our business, we do not want it to be available to our politicians as smoke-screen.

How can this conflict be resolved?

(Though it is interesting to consider that a couple of years ago the smokescreen would have been some throw-away policy announcement. These days they can't even get away with that.)


  • 8.
  • At 07:31 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Garry wrote:

I would like to know is when the PM knew that his Deputy was having an affair.

  • 9.
  • At 04:25 PM on 30 Apr 2006,
  • Jonathan wrote:

He's a great looking bloke is John, I'm surprised a story like this hasn't broken before.

  • 10.
  • At 01:45 AM on 01 May 2006,
  • jez B wrote:

Ah. Caught out. Desperately back tracking. How terribly New Labour / BBC of you.

  • 11.
  • At 09:01 PM on 02 May 2006,
  • robin Bentley wrote:

It is extradinary that the press are pre-occupied with when the PM is leaving office and the antics of ministers, but why do the news hacks keep information they learn of the record just to toady up to ministers. I think it is regretable that in a so called democracy that the public are always kept in the dark by Ministers, spin doctors and the press if it suits. I think many people will agree that there is a feeling of loss over how Tony Blair has treated the public in order to stay in office he has adopted big business. I feel a loss and that is why i have lost all respect and hope in politics

  • 12.
  • At 09:35 AM on 05 May 2006,
  • stephen jones wrote:

The questions in my mind are; how long has this been an "open secret", who first reported it, who did they work for and is it possible that it was retained until the right moment came up?

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