John Prescott puts punch into politics fest

FORMER Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is among the political heavyweights headlining at this summer's Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament.

• Real Radio presenters Ewen Cameron, right, and Alan Rough launch the Politics Festival programme with Deputy Presiding Officer Trish Godman, MSP. The festival with host Scotland's Political Football, a live debate on the future of football. Picture:Julie Bull

The Labour politician will be joined by Conservative MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary, and by political comic and campaigner Mark Thomas at the Scotsman-backed event.

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Other big names at the event, which runs between 17 and 21 August, include the former Independent MP and war reporter Martin Bell, along with the ex-Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox. There will also be a debate on the future of Scottish football broadcast live on the Real Radio Football Phone-in.

Mr Prescott will discuss "A life in politics", taking in both his time in opposition and in government, during a conversation with Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson on Saturday 21 August.

Sir Malcolm will discuss the issue of whether peace is "worth fighting for? with Joel Rosenthal, president of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, during a debate on world security on Wednesday 18 August.

Lennox will return to the Scottish Parliament a year after her last visit, when she talked about her SING Campaign to fight HIV and AIDS in South Africa. The award-winning singer will provide an update of her campaign during the event chaired by the Presiding Officer on Thursday 19 August.

Speaking ahead of her Holyrood visit, she said: "I'm really looking forward to coming back to Edinburgh during the week of the Festival of Politics. I'm particularly excited about presenting a lecture for the General Teaching Council for Scotland, as I believe that 'educators' and young people hold a key pivotal role with regard to the positive development and transformation of society in the future."

The singer will also share a platform with Martin Bell and comic Thomas on Wednesday 18 August, when the panel will discuss how people who are not politicians can make an impact on the political process.

This year's festival will also play host to a panel of pundits, football experts and politicians in a debate broadcast live on the Real Radio Football Phone-In on Tuesday 17 August.

A discussion on how politicians and political institutions are seeking to engage with the public is being held on Friday 20 August, when the panel will include the Presiding Officer, YouGov opinion pollster Peter Kellner, Labour MP Jim Hood and Peter MacMahon, assistant editor of The Scotsman.

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The festival will close on Saturday 21 August when former defence secretary Des Browne and ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell take part in a discussion on the role Scotland can play in resolving world conflicts.

The Presiding Officer said the festival had been a major success during the five years it had been running. .