John Prescott has struck out on his own election battlebus. Campbell Docherty caught up with the embattled Deputy Prime Minister in Birmingham's Bartley Green ...

John Prescott's rambunctious General Election tour - his own kind of Rolling Thunder Review replete with bluster and famously breathless, unintelligible monologues - has become one of the few, if not the only, entertaining things about this campaign.

He has already spat "amateur" barbs at a Welsh journalist for asking unwelcome questions and, with memories of the famous 'Two Jabs' punch up in 2001 still fresh, it is only human to hope for a little more theatre.

Waiting for the ludicrously named and festooned " Prescott Express" in the rain outside Bartley Green Technology College - having been kept in the dark by press-paranoid apparatchiks as to where it was actually going to arrive until less than an hour before - there was even more anticipation than normal.

Yesterday morning, Greenpeace protesters had climbed on to the roof of Mr Prescott's home in Hull with some solar panels. Surely, Prezza's famously short fuse would be ready to ignite?

As the bus pulled up, I had visions of a snarling, bright purple faced Deputy Prime Minister leaping through the door and on to the first journalist he could find, fists first.

As it was, a handful of Labour activists with balloons greeted him with some polite cheers.

It was all very disappointing. Until, that is, a well-known political sketch writer for a famously right-wing national tabloid newspaper popped up beside him, asking for his comments on the Greenpeace stunt.

Here we go: "What... oh it's Quentin Letts. You see that? That's the fascist Daily Mail for you. That's how they operate."

I attempted to ask him the same reasonable question as he walked along towards the school. He shot me a look.

It was the kind of look a nightclub bouncer might give you before telling you 'if you do that again, I'm going to hit you'.

If this was shaping up to be a bad day for Mr Prescott, that was all about to change, at least momentarily.

As soon as he entered the school gates, a large crowd of pupils went ballistic with cheers and, God help us, even screams.

The only two rational explanations I can offer: a) nobody told them this wasn't Rik Waller or, b) the school canteen had been flooded with free Sunny Delight.

To be fair, the school has some reasons to cheer, with a recent Ofsted report declaring it well above average for a school in such a deprived area.

Then upstairs to hear the experiences of the candidates in the college's recent mock election.

"You don't want to hear political speak," Mr Prescott told the kids. "You want to hear how it happens and I am going to hear what you say."

Before mentally untangling what the man actually meant by that collection of words, I was ushered out along with another journalist from a Birmingham paper by a Prescott Express battlebus team member.

Apparently, the pupils clam up when they see journalists and don't want to speak - it is not uncommon for politicians to do the same, when it suits them

We were eventually let back in when it was discovered we were not national journalists.

His question and answer session with the pupils was delightful. The contrast between their ordinary questions about how he got into politics and the like and the extraordinary grammatical gymnastics of his answers was mind blowing.

" Do you enjoy facing Michael Howard in Prime Minister's Questions?"

"Erm, well I don't... actually... I do do Prime Minister's Questions when the Prime Minister is away from the country but they put up some Lord, I don't know who it is... what's his name?"

One of his team mumbles: "Michael Ancram".

"That's it, Lord Ancram, he's a proper Lord, he's born into it, but there you are."

He also found time to tell the pupils he thought the the aforementioned parliamentary sketch writer was a "public school twit" and gave himself a little pat on the back for his work in securing the Kyoto Agreement.

All delivered to an audience of baffled schoolchildren in the random, staccato sentences which have become his trademark.

It was an amusing scene. Of course, you might well be wondering where the substantial issues on which the election should be fought came into all this.

At one point Mr Prescott, after a bit of an undignified rummage through his suit jacket pockets, did pull out the famous Labour Pledge Card and went off on a little ramble about how Labour had achieved this whereas nobody believed the Tories after their 18 years in power when they say that.

It's the bluster that Mr Prescott does best. It was quite a tableau. The Deputy Prime Minister berating the Tories and public-school journalists in front of school children, while his aides dither about whether there should be any reporters present at all.

Chaotic, entertaining and basically pointless: welcome to politics circa 2005.