Name: Ian Newton
Date: 11 March 1998
Facts: Ian Newton, 47, was a bored factory worker in Hull who caused a major political furore when he unearthed some documents relating to the son of John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister. The affair put huge pressure on Prescott, and was christened 'Dustbingate' because of the assumption that Newton had found information by going through Prescott's bin. Newton still lives in Hull.
Everybody wants to find a way of making money and getting out of their dead-end jobs. Working class people are all into get-rich-quick schemes, and one of the things I've heard a million times is, 'If I could get away with it, I'd do a bank job.' My friends and I were all into those schemes to try to escape the factory jobs we'd found ourselves in - making plastic bottle tops and packing them into boxes. We were all watching the general election on television one night when someone mentioned that an undercover journalist was in Hull investigating local sleaze. I didn't think any more about it, until my mate Harry called around the next morning, and said, 'Why don't we beat the journalists to the story?' Apart from a few hiccups, it eventually changed my life.
Our plan hinged on the fact that we were all union blokes, we knew everybody in Hull and our friends and families worked in places where they had access to confidential information. We decided we'd investigate things for ourselves.
We came across a story that seemed to relate to John Prescott property deals completely by accident. One night we bumped into a friend who worked for the gas board. He mentioned he had been talking to someone called Prescott about fitting a gas fire to a house. His girlfriend, who worked at Transco, ran his name through the computer, and out popped all these houses in Leeds and Hull with the name of John Prescott's son on them. We got the phone numbers of some people who lived next door to one of his houses and called them to find out what had happened to their neighbours.
It turned out that the house had been repossessed. I thought, 'That can't be right, no one from John Prescott's family would dare be involved in buying a repossessed house.' There's nothing illegal about it, but you can't fly the red flag and do that kind of thing. It's like a vegetarian working in a butcher's shop.
We leaked the information to the press and it created one hell of a media frenzy, christened Dustbingate. Everything intensified when we found some more documents about a company called Wyke Property Services, which was part-owned by Jonathan Prescott, showing that it were buying cheap council houses on the quiet.
The funny thing is, even though it was called Dustbingate, we didn't actually get anything from John Prescott's bin. The worst we did to it was drag it down the road and tip it over when we passed by his house after the pub one night. When all of the allegations came out, he just assumed we had found the information in his bin.
There was an enormous amount of pressure on Prescott for about 10 days, because the allegations about his son were tarnishing him politically, and we knew from a source that a counter attack was coming in the shape of a story in The Times , naming us and saying we were running a vendetta against him. He was fighting back, so we had to call his bluff. My friend Malcolm and I went to Hull central police station and said we had broken into Prescott's garage. For the next few days, I found myself splashed all over the national and international media. It's quite disconcerting to watch the ITN news and hear Julia Somerville say that 42-year-old Ian Newton has been charged with conspiracy to burgle and charges associated with breaking into the home of the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, not to mention his missing dustbin.
I still had a hungry horde of journalists on my doorstep, so I went into hiding at my mate Jim's mum's house. My wife kicked me out of the house, when she found out what I was up to, and it took seven weeks to persuade her to let me back.
I made around £96,000 from selling the stories, which was the whole point. I've got a new house and a sports car and I bought a 20 per cent share of a takeaway business. I knew I could get a book out of it because a media event had taken place, and I ended up getting an advance of £5,000. Someone suggested that Dustbingate would make a great film, so I wrote a screenplay. I've had to put it on the back burner for a while because you can't make a movie about an incumbent politician, but it's led to invitations to write a sitcom - I have one coming out next year called The Night Shift . I'm interested in the idea of people sitting around a factory canteen, solving the world's problems on the back of a fag packet.
I've discovered I'm a good writer of working-class comedy and that's what I'm going to do now, as well as my full-time job as a 'research chemist'. I've lost faith in the Labour Party, despite being a lifelong member, and I've joined the Liberals. The royalties are still coming in from the book, and I'm happy to say they go up every time Prescott hits somebody.
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