John Prescott is one of the last of a dying political breed: the local trade union official who rose from the shop floor (or in his case, ships' decks) to be selected as an MP and then progress through to the cabinet.
If his book makes one thing clear, it's that he's always felt - and usually been - an outsider. As such, being just about the last remaining Old Labour member of an unapologetically New Labour government placed him in a role where he was comfortably uncomfortable. He doesn't seem happy unless fighting against someone, whether that be ships' masters, his trade union bosses, Tories, or the 'beautiful people' in Labour for whom modernisation meant dumping the party's heritage. Or egg-throwers.
That episode may well be what he ultimately becomes best remembered for and it's something he seems proud of, given the number of references or allusions to it throughout, from reminiscences of his times entertaining passengers at sea as a participant in boxing bouts, to another incident where he hit someone while Deputy PM, to the book's subtitle, 'Pulling no Punches'.
As for that description, it feels largely true. It's not a deep personal self-analysis (failings are invariably put down to his having failed the Eleven Plus or poor grammar) but it does feel quite an honest account of his life. The comparison with, for example, Peter Mandelson's book, The Third Man, is stark: there, every word felt as if it had been considered before being committed to paper, as he still fought for his legacy. Prescott's is definitely written in the past tense.
One reason why it is so open is that I suspect that while every word is his, he didn't write any of them. The style is very conversational and it reads as if the book's resulted from a long series of interviews between Prescott and Hunter Davies, after which Davies has 'knocked it into shape and made sense of it all', as Prescott says in the acknowledgements, but left the wording verbatim in as far as possible. One other aspect of this approach is that the chapters tend to be thematic rather than purely chronological, which is no bad thing.
If he shows few if any regrets politically, he does appear more vulnerable when discussing his battle with bulimia and his affair, though his description of the former has much more emotional depth than the latter.
Overall, it's a lightweight book as political autobiographies go but one surprisingly worth reading. I didn't have any great expectations beforehand but I'm glad I bought it and would recommend it to anyone interested in understanding both New Labour in government and the Labour of a time gone and unlikely to return.