British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who enlivened one election campaign as a brawler, has acknowledged having a two-year extramarital affair with a secretary, his office said Wednesday.

The Daily Mirror newspaper reported that Prescott, 67, had a relationship with his assistant private secretary Tracey Temple, 43, beginning in 2002.

"I did have a relationship with her which I regret. It ended some time ago. I have discussed this fully with my wife, Pauline, who is devastated by the news," Prescott told the paper. A spokesman in his office confirmed the quotation was accurate.

The Daily Mirror devoted six pages to the Prescott affair, starting on the front page with a big photo of the grinning politician, his arm around a laughing Temple.

He and his wife, who have two sons, mark their 45th anniversary this year.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's office dismissed the story as "a private matter," but it adds to the pressure on the governing Labour Party before local council elections in Britain next week.

On Tuesday, the government admitted that it had failed to seek deportation of foreign criminals released from prison, and there has been continuing controversy over allegations that Blair's government awarded nominations to seats in the House of Lords in exchange for loans to the governing Labour Party.

In the 2001 general election campaign, Prescott punched a protester who had thrown an egg.