Alan Johnson

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For the similarly named BBC journalist, see Alan Johnston.
For other people named Alan Johnson, see Alan Johnson (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
Alan Johnson
MP
Alan Johnson -9Oct2007-2.jpg
Johnson in the Houses of Parliament, October 2007
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
8 October 2010 – 20 January 2011
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by Alistair Darling
Succeeded by Ed Balls
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
11 May 2010 – 8 October 2010
Leader Harriet Harman
Ed Miliband
Preceded by Chris Grayling
Succeeded by Ed Balls
Home Secretary
In office
5 June 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Jacqui Smith
Succeeded by Theresa May
Secretary of State for Health
In office
28 June 2007 – 5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Patricia Hewitt
Succeeded by Andy Burnham
Secretary of State for Education and Skills
In office
5 May 2006 – 28 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Ruth Kelly
Succeeded by Ed Balls (at CSF)
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
6 May 2005 – 5 May 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Patricia Hewitt
Succeeded by Alistair Darling
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In office
8 September 2004 – 6 May 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Andrew Smith
Succeeded by David Blunkett
Member of Parliament
for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle
Incumbent
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Stuart Randall (Hull West)
Majority 5,740 (18.2%)
Personal details
Born (1950-05-17) 17 May 1950 (age 64)
Paddington, London, England
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Judith Cox (divorced)
Laura Patient (m. 1991–present)
Website www.AlanJohnson.org

Alan Arthur Johnson (born 17 May 1950) is a British Labour Party politician who served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010. Before that, he filled a wide variety of cabinet positions in both the Blair and Brown governments, including Health Secretary and Education Secretary. Until 20 January 2011 he was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Johnson has been the Member of Parliament for Hull West and Hessle since the 1997 general election.

Early life[edit]

Born in London on 17 May 1950, the son of Stephen and Lillian Johnson,[1] he was orphaned at the age of 12 when his mother died. Johnson was then in effect brought up by his older sister Linda when the two were assigned a council flat by their child welfare officer.[2][3][4] Linda, then herself only 16, has since been recognised as the hero of Johnson's poignant 2013 memoir This Boy: A Memoir of a Childhood.[5] He passed the 11 plus exam and attended Sloane Grammar school in Chelsea, now part of Pimlico Academy, and left school at the age of 15.[3] He then stacked shelves at Tesco before becoming a postman at 18.[2] He was interested in music and joined two pop music bands.[3] Johnson joined the Union of Communication Workers, becoming a branch official. He joined the Labour Party in 1971, although he considered himself a Marxist ideologically aligned with the Communist Party of Great Britain.[6] A full-time union official from 1987, he became General Secretary of the union in 1992.

Before entering parliament Johnson was a member of Labour's National Executive Committee. During this time he was the only major union leader to support the abolition of Clause IV.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Just three weeks before the 1997 general election, Johnson was selected to stand for parliament in the safe Labour seat of Hull West and Hessle when the previous incumbent, Stuart Randall, stood down suddenly. Randall was subsequently elevated to the House of Lords.

In Government[edit]

He was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Dawn Primarolo in 1997 and achieved his first ministerial post at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in 1999. He was moved to the Department for Education and Skills in 2003 as Minister for Higher Education though he had left school at 15.

Johnson entered the Cabinet in September 2004 as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after the resignation of Andrew Smith. Following the 2005 election Johnson was initially announced on 6 May 2005 as being "Secretary of State for Productivity, Energy and Industry", but after just a week, on 13 May, it was declared that the new title would not be used, after widespread derision of the new name, because the abbreviation for Johnson's title, Productivity, Energy and Industry Secretary, would have been "PENIS".[7] The department's old name was kept and Johnson served as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. On 5 May 2006, one day after the 2006 local elections, his brief was changed to that of Secretary of State for Education and Skills, replacing Ruth Kelly.

Education Secretary[edit]

During his time as education secretary, Johnson brought in new ideas and proposals, including encouraging parents to spend more time with their children in a bid to help them progress with their literacy and numeracy skills.[8] Johnson has also previously expressed some concerns over diplomas,[9] and has opened up debate in parliament on the subject of what parental situation is best. He stated that in his view, it is the parents themselves who make the difference, not their marital situation.[10] Johnson looked at improving pay and working conditions for teachers during his tenure as Education Secretary.[11]

Health Secretary[edit]

Johnson became Secretary of State for Health on 28 June 2007, succeeding Patricia Hewitt in Prime Minister Gordon Brown's first Cabinet. He later criticised breast cancer patient Debbie Hirst because she attempted to buy the cancer drug Avastin, which the NHS had denied her. Johnson told Parliament, patients "cannot, in one episode of treatment, be treated on the NHS and then allowed, as part of the same episode and the same treatment, to pay money for more drugs. That way lies the end of the founding principles of the NHS."[12]

When there was a problem with C.difficile at hospitals managed by the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, they dismissed their "blameless" chief executive "both unlawfully .. and unfairly" and agreed to pay her £250,000, much less than the sum that they were told that defending a case for unfair dismissal would cost.[13] When the proposed payment became known, Johnson intervened and the Department of Health ordered the trust to withhold more than two-thirds of the severance payment, although its director general of finance, performance and operations said that "it was 'not unfair'" that she should receive the money.[14] When the case came to the Court of Appeal, the payment was restored in a judgement that was highly critical of the Department, including quoting her complaint that Johnson had made "personal comments made about me .. without any reference to the Trust, or informing me, .. regarding my severance value and its non-payment".[15]

Home Secretary[edit]

On 5 June 2009, he was appointed to the position of Home Secretary during a reshuffle, replacing the first female holder of the post, Jacqui Smith.[16]

In October 2009 Alan Johnson sacked the Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), Professor David Nutt. Nutt had accused the government of "distorting" and "devaluing" research evidence in the debate over illicit drugs,[17] criticising it for making political decisions with regard to drug classifications in rejecting the scientific advice to downgrade MDMA (Ecstasy) from a class A drug,[18] and rejecting the scientific advice not to reclassify cannabis from class C to class B drug. Alan Johnson wrote to the professor, "It is important that the government's messages on drugs are clear and as an advisor you do nothing to undermine public understanding of them. I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as Chair of the ACMD."[19] In January 2010, Professor Nutt established the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, with the aim of publishing honest drug information.[20] By 2 April 2010, seven members of the ACMD had resigned.[21]

In February 2010, it came out in court that MI5 had known that Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, had been tortured or mistreated by the American services, despite earlier statements to the contrary.

In response, Johnson insisted that the media coverage of the torture had been "baseless, groundless accusations".[22] He also claimed that Government lawyers had not forced the judiciary to water down criticism of MI5, despite an earlier, draft ruling by Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls that the Security Service had failed to respect human rights, deliberately misled parliament, and had a "culture of suppression" that undermined government assurances about its conduct.[23]

Deputy Leadership candidate 2007[edit]

Johnson publicly stated in May 2006 he expected to stand for the post of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party when John Prescott stepped down. Johnson told the BBC in an interview on 9 November 2006[24] that he would in fact be supporting Brown and standing as deputy leader. He was successfully nominated onto the ballot paper for Labour Deputy leader with most number of nominations. On 24 June 2007,[25] Johnson was narrowly beaten for the deputy leadership by Harriet Harman. He led in rounds 2 to 4 of the voting, until he was overtaken by Harman in the last round, eventually finishing with 49.56% of the vote.

Potential for Labour Party leadership[edit]

Having been touted in the media as a possible successor to outgoing Labour leader Gordon Brown, Johnson officially announced to the BBC on 12 May 2010 that he would not be standing in the forthcoming leadership contest, and would instead be backing David Miliband.[26]

Potential London Mayoral candidate[edit]

Johnson in Hull, 2011

In 2010, there was much speculation that Johnson was going to stand as a candidate for the London Mayoral election after announcing that he was not going to contest the leadership. Many of Johnson's close allies encouraged him to stand for the Mayoralty and he was thought to have been considering it.[27][28] However, Johnson decided not to stand for the Labour Party selection for Mayor and instead backed Oona King for the candidacy, but she lost to Ken Livingstone. In 2011, there was speculation that Livingstone could be deselected as the Labour candidate in favour of Johnson but that did not happen.[29] In 2012, after Livingstone's defeat by Boris Johnson, many Labour members said that Johnson should have been the Labour candidate. Johnson then revealed that he did consider standing for Mayor of London but he felt that his allegiance was to Hull. However, he said that he would not stand for Mayor of London in the 2016 elections as he wants to stay on as an MP.[30]

Views on electoral reform[edit]

Johnson is a strong supporter of electoral reform and proportional representation advocating the Alternative Vote Plus (AV+) as recommended by the Jenkins Commission.[31] He indicated that he would seek support within the Labour Party for an amendment to the government's Bill on Electoral Reform, to add AV+ as an additional choice in the referendum. In 2010, it was rumoured that he'd step down as an MP to trigger a by-election in Hull, to stand on a Proportional representation ticket.[32] He supported the Yes to fairer votes campaign in the referendum on 5 May 2011. He appeared as one of the main Labour supporters of the Yes campaign at a London event on 3 May 2011, at which Ed Miliband also appeared.

Shadow Chancellor[edit]

Johnson was chosen as Shadow Chancellor in Ed Miliband's first shadow cabinet, appointed on 8 October 2010.[33] His first major speech was the Opposition response to the comprehensive spending review.[34] The BBC reported that he had made several "gaffes" in his role as Shadow Chancellor and "in an interview he appeared not to know the rate of National Insurance paid by employers, and he was also reported to have clashed with his party leader over the policy of introducing a graduate tax to replace university tuition fees .[citation needed] He resigned as Shadow Chancellor on 20 January 2011 after three and a half months in the job, citing personal reasons."[35] He was replaced by Ed Balls.[36]

Personal life[edit]

Johnson has been married twice. His first marriage was to Judith Elizabeth Cox, with whom he has one son and two daughters.[1] After his divorce he married Laura Jane Patient in 1991, with whom he has a son born in 2000.[37]

His hobbies include music, tennis, reading, cooking, football, and radio.[1] He supports Queens Park Rangers.[38]

Memoirs[edit]

His memoir of childhood, This Boy: A Memoir of a Childhood, was published in 2013. It won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize (2014),[39] and the Orwell Prize, Britain's top political writing award.[40]

His second volume of memoirs, Please Mr Postman, is due for publication in September 2014.[41]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Debrett's People of Today 2005 (18th ed.). Debrett's. p. 866. ISBN 1-870520-10-6. 
  2. ^ a b The charming Mr Johnson, The Economist, 14 September 2006
  3. ^ a b c "Desert Island Discs with Alan Johnson". Desert Island Discs. 7 October 2007. BBC. Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/desertislanddiscs_20071007.shtml.
  4. ^ Telegraph Article 29 April 2013
  5. ^ Guardian review of This Boy: A Memoir of a Childhood
  6. ^ "NS profile: Alan Johnson". New Statesman. Retrieved 20 August 2006. 
  7. ^ "Profile: Alan Johnson". London: The Telegraph. 18 June 2005. 
  8. ^ "Parents urged to read to children". London: BBC news. 15 March 2007. Archived from the original on 3 July 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  9. ^ Harrison, Angela (9 March 2007). "Diplomas 'may go horribly wrong'". London: BBC News. Archived from the original on 2 June 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  10. ^ Assinder, Nick (27 February 2007). "Johnson opens up family debate". London: BBC news. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  11. ^ "Fairer pay for part-time teachers". London: BBC news. 7 February 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  12. ^ Goldstein, Jacob (21 February 2008). "U.K. Wrestles Over Private Payment for Health Care – Health Blog – WSJ". Blogs.wsj.com. Retrieved 2 November 2009. 
  13. ^ "[2010] EWCA Civ 678". BAILII. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "'Scapegoat' former NHS boss loses bid for £250,000 pay-off". theguardian.com. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  15. ^ "[2010] EWCA Civ 678". BAILII. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "I won't walk away, insists Brown". BBC News Online (London: BBC). 5 June 2009. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2009. 
  17. ^ Tran, Mark (30 October 2009). Government drug adviser David Nutt sacked. The Guardian.
  18. ^ Travis, Alan (February 2009). "Government criticised over refusal to downgrade ecstasy". London: The Guardian. 
  19. ^ Easton, Mark (30 October 2009). Nutt gets the sack. BBC News.
  20. ^ "Nutt vows to set up new drug body". BBC News. 4 November 2009. Archived from the original on 7 November 2009. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  21. ^ "Government adviser Eric Carlin quits over mephedrone". BBC News. 2 April 2010. Archived from the original on 5 April 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  22. ^ [1]. Time Online. 12 February 2010.
  23. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard; Cobain, Ian (10 February 2010). "Top judge: Binyam Mohamed case shows MI5 to be devious, dishonest and complicit in torture". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  24. ^ "Johnson backing Brown for leader". London: BBC news. 9 November 2006. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  25. ^ "Harman wins deputy leader contest". London: BBC news. 24 June 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  26. ^ "Labour leadership: David Miliband enters contest". BBC News. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  27. ^ Waugh, Paul (18 May 2010). "Alan Johnson v Boris Johnson for London Mayor – News – Evening Standard". Thisislondon.co.uk. 
  28. ^ "Will it be Boris Johnson v Alan Johnson in 2012?". New Statesman. 
  29. ^ McSmith, Andy (28 September 2011). "Livingstone: Alan Johnson lacks the drive a mayor needs". The Independent (London). 
  30. ^ "Alan Johnson 'will not challenge Boris in London Mayor election'". This is Hull and East Riding. 27 November 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  31. ^ "Here's how to give power back to the people". London: The Observer. 23 May 2010. Archived from the original on 26 May 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  32. ^ Hennessy, Patrick (12 June 2010). "Alan Johnson could force by-election over PR". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  33. ^ Wintour, Patrick (8 October 2010). "Alan Johnson is named shadow chancellor in Miliband frontbench team". Guardian (London). 
  34. ^ Wintour, Patrick (18 October 2010). "Alan Johnson: Bankers should pay £3.5bn more to tackle deficit". Guardian (London). 
  35. ^ "Alan Johnson protection officer faces investigation". BBC News. 21 January 2011. 
  36. ^ Falloon, Matt (20 January 2011). "Ed Balls to take fight to government on economy". Uk.reuters.com. 
  37. ^ Greenstreet, Rosanna (24 October 2009). "Q&A: Alan Johnson | Life and style". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 2 November 2009. 
  38. ^ "Alan Johnson: 'My pop star ambitions'". BBC News. 19 July 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2013. 
  39. ^ Flood, Alison (20 May 2014). "Alan Johnson's memoir of London slum childhood wins £10,000 Ondaatje prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  40. ^ Flood, Alison (21 May 2014). "Alan Johnson wins Orwell political writing prize for memoir This Boy". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  41. ^ Wilby, Peter (2 May 2013). "This Boy: A Memoir of a Childhood by Alan Johnson – review". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 9 June 2013. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Stuart Randall
Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle
1997–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Andrew Smith
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
2004–2005
Succeeded by
David Blunkett
Preceded by
Patricia Hewitt
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
2005–2006
Succeeded by
Alistair Darling
Preceded by
Ruth Kelly
Secretary of State for Education and Skills
2006–2007
Succeeded by
Ed Balls
Preceded by
Patricia Hewitt
Secretary of State for Health
2007–2009
Succeeded by
Andy Burnham
Preceded by
Jacqui Smith
Home Secretary
2009–2010
Succeeded by
Theresa May
Preceded by
Alistair Darling
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
2010–2011
Succeeded by
Ed Balls
Non-profit organisation positions
Preceded by
Alan Tuffin
General Secretary of the Union of Communication Workers
1992–1995
Succeeded by
Office Abolished
Preceded by
Office Created
General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union
1995–1997
Succeeded by
Derek Hodgson