The son of a railway signalman, John Prescott failed his 11-plus exam and became a steward in the Merchant Navy. He went on to attend Ruskin College, Oxford and then Hull University where he obtained a degree in economics and economic history. He was elected to Parliament in 1970 as MP for Hull East. Following the death of John Smith in 1994 he became deputy leader of the Labour party in the first leadership election under the 'one member, one vote' system he had passionately advocated at the 1993 Labour conference.
Following Labour's election victory in 1997, Prescott was appointed deputy prime minister, a position he held until his retirement from the job in June 2007.