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Thank’ee, kind sir: John Prescott overtips a chambermaid in Cuba

That rough diamond of the Labour party, ascended man of the people John Prescott, has fulfilled a lifetime’s dream, courtesy of a holiday to Cuba “provided by” Journey Latin America.

Rum and cola in hand, he does the online equivalent of showing the neighbours his holiday slides, by regaling the Guardian audience with a matey account of his adventures: John Prescott leaves the 21st century behind in Cuba.

He and his son, also along for the ride, had a fine old time. A moment of embarrassment over the right amount to tip provided an entertaining anecdote:

As a tourist, you must use a special tourist currency – the CCP, Cuban convertible pesos – while locals use Cuban pesos or CUP. It’s not really too hard to work out, but it did manage to get me in trouble when tipping. I left the equivalent of £15 in convertible currency for the chambermaid, who immediately threw her arms around me to express her appreciation. I then learned that she earned only £30 a month, and was suddenly fearful that the embrace might provoke comparisons to the French politician and the American maid.

Down in the comments, this fisking by ‘brituser’ fails to enter into the holiday spirit. What a grinch! I have quoted only some of it; do not on any account read the rest. Prescott is in italics, ‘brituser’ in bold.

I rarely take holidays, so the concept of the trip – to remove myself from the distractions of 21st-century life – was an attractive one.

What an interesting way of describing everyone around as incredibly poor. Would you have wished that on your constituents?

Many cities become so valuable to business that residents are pushed out of the heart of them. Here, however, people are king

In other words there’s no office jobs here. Look outside Havana and you’ll see 20% of the population working on the land in back breaking work in intense heat. Or rather you wouldn’t because you’re too exhausted from sitting on sunbed. You wouldn’t wish that on the UK population would you?


I realised I am built to rush, rush, rush, argue, argue, argue, but that’s not the mood of Cuba.

Something to do with the fact it’s a Communist dictatorship and you know if you say something you’d be rushed off to jail-no freedom of speech.

I rarely take holidays, so the concept of the trip – to remove myself from the distractions of 21st-century life – was an attractive one. It also turned out to be easily achieved

The trip was provided by Journey Latin America-Yes if was a freebie, despite the taxpayer paying a fortune in salary to you. You have registered the bribe-sorry holiday?

With another rum and cola in hand and the air full of cigar smoke,….. I felt as though I was experiencing the Cuba that I’d imagined all those years ago.

Or the UK before you banned smoking in public places. I thought it was supposed to be a health measure. Don’t you care about cuban workers and second-hand smoke?

They live life at a far more relaxed pace there, which is why it’s the perfect place for a holiday.

In other words nothing works. With my western money I can act and feel like a millionaire.

12 comments to Thank’ee, kind sir: John Prescott overtips a chambermaid in Cuba

  • marvo

    Nathalie you summed up how I felt about this article. Indeed you saved me the bother of reading it, I could not get past the first few paragraphs.
    I could not even be bothered to check the end in case it had a reverse opinion, though this is unlikely in Prescott’s case; he would have happily delivered us into a communist utopia had he the chance.
    It seems to me “relaxed pace of life” descriptions are generally applied to places where the locals have to work very hard to make ends meet because they are very poor.

  • llamas

    Nothing like a brutal fisking to set you up for the day ahead. Well done, brituser.

    The scary part is that Prescott really has so little self-awareness that he cannot even begin to grasp the contradictions which Brituser points out so well. The people are so dirt-poor that his thoughtless tip to a chambermaid equals half her monthly income, yet all he can prattle on about are the lovely cuba libres and the exquisite cigars. Plonker.



  • Runcie Balspune

    “Many cities become so valuable to business that residents are pushed out of the heart of them”

    This phrase is so utterly wrong.

    Cities generally exist because of ease of trade and commerce, only the econmics of scale allows the population density to overcome the disadvantages of poor land use, the idea that a city exists and then business takes it over is utter b*ll*ocks.

    Saying that, the economic and social miracle that is Cuba probably underwent one of those centralised urban planning episodes, if business have moved into the city it is only to restore the equilibrium that the communists thought they could do without.

  • Thank you all for your comments. I agreed with them all, no surprise, but just to echo the point about self-awareness and a “relaxed pace of life”:

    Prescott gushes on about how peaceful it is without the “distractions of 21st century life.”

    It really does not seem to have occurred to him that the reason why 21st century distractions such as the internet are not inveigling Cubans away from their salsa is that the government has banned the internet in private homes (as pointed out by Michael Totten in Mezzrow’s link.)

    And all the Castro fanboys in the comments seem blessedly unaware of the irony of them praising Cuba Libre on their home internet connections as well.

  • jerry

    Has anyone else noticed –
    that there have been many ‘high profile visitors’ to Cuba ( over here it’s been the propagandist Michael Moore and ‘actor’ Danny Glover among others ) who return telling stories of how wonderful the place is ( scenery, architecture, FREE MEDICAL CARE etc.) and not one damn one of them has ever actually moved to the paradise they describe and stayed there ?????

  • Paul Marks

    30 Pounds a MONTH – and for someone in the elite sector (for being a servant to overseas political types is an elite job in Cuba – rather than being a doctor or a teacher).

    And this in a country that as recently as the 1950s had living standards higher than much of Western Europe.

    The social democratic (and pro unions) government of Batista was far from perfect (after all he was a radical – and first taken over in a leftist military coup in the early 1930s), but Castro and his Marxists have proved vastly worse.

    As for the Americans – contrary to the myth (taught in the schools and universities and repeated in the media) they did not really support Batista (perhaps because he has a “touch of the sun” as used to be the polite way of describing someone of mixed racial heritage) indeed the American arms embargo was one of the reasons for the fall of Batista.

    And when John Kennedy became President?

    One of the many distortions of modern history……

    Supposedly President Kennedy “bravely took the blame for the mistakes of the CIA and military” in the failed “Bay of Pigs” operation of Cuban exiles to overthrow the Marxist regime.

    In reality it was the changes to the plan MADE BY KENNEDY HIMSELF that doomed the plan – including cutting the air support in half (and it was only 16 bombers to start with – Kennedy cut that to 8), and demanding a different place of landing from that which was already planned.

    It is a double bluff – Kennedy “takes responsibility for what were really mistakes of other”, when it really was his mistakes (his blunders).

    And the “clever” people say “if only he had cancelled the operation” rather than “if only a man dependent on various chemicals had not tried to micro manage a military operation”.

    A competent Commander in Chief knows how to delegate.

    He (or she) says “do what you have to do, use what you have to use, not GET THE JOB DONE”.

    A competent Commander in Chief does not try to be his own tactical commander.

  • Rich Rostrom

    A hotel chambermaid in Cuba, according to Prescott, makes 30 GBP/month. At $1.6490/GBP, that’s about $50/month.

    A hotel chambermaid in the U.S., making minimum wage, gets $7.25/hr. $7.25 * 40 hrs/wk * 52 wks/yr = $1,256.67 / month: 25 times as much.

    I can’t find data for 1960, but in 1970, the per capita GNI in Cuba was $641. It was $5,131 in the U.S.: 8 times as much.

    So it would seem that for the working class, Cuban socialism has been losing economic ground compared to capitalism.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Rich – especially when one considers how much LESS capitalist (how much more statist) the United States is now than it was in 1960.

    As for a island in the same sea to compare to Cuba.

    The Cayman Islands (only a few miles away) spring to mind – and Cuba is a major producer of nickel and the Cayman Islands are not.

    Gentle reader.

    Would you rather be a hotel worker in the Cayman Islands or in Cuba?

  • bloke in spain

    Always amusing, when one looks at the comments under a CiF article it’s one of the few papers you can’t sort them by most popular first. Because, of course, no comment can be judged for value. Judgementalism being WRONG! Except the many one sees as “removed”. Presumably having been judged as expressing INCORRECT VALUES!

  • Rob

    The Cubans must suffer so that Western socialists can feel good about their insanity.

  • Mr Ed


    Indeed. In the 1960s Cuba, the 1970s Chile, the 1980s Nicaragua, the 1990s spoilt by the collapse of the USSR, nowadays Venezuela is showing its scars, so they have come full circle on the Red Wheel.

    Even the BBC are taking note of tyranny in Cuba outside of the Guántanamo Bay area.