Friday News Review

Good luck Alan

Alan Johnson quit frontline politics after his wife was alleged to have had an affair with his police bodyguard. And last night Scotland Yard confirmed they were carrying out an internal inquiry into the behaviour of the armed officer, from the elite SO1 close protection squad. The Met’s Department of Professional Standards was called in to probe the claims, which emerged hours after Mr Johnson resigned as shadow chancellor. The officer in question is thought to be a detective constable. He faces suspension – at the least – if bosses decide his conduct has fallen short. The bodyguard is said to have worked for him for more than a year, protecting him and his family during trips at home and abroad. Labour veteran Mr Johnson, 60, had earlier announced he was bowing out from the front bench for “personal and family reasons”. The Westminster rumour mill went into overdrive as sources revealed his 20-year marriage had broken down. Labour leader Ed Miliband described him one of the most popular figures in parliament. He said was an “outstanding colleague” who had also been “a great friend for many years”. He added that the resignation had nothing to do with Mr Johnson’s ability to do the job. In his resignation statement Mr Johnson, MP for Hull West, said: “I have decided to resign from the shadow cabinet for personal reasons to do with my family.” – Daily Mirror

Alan Johnson is rightly admired as one of Westminster’s straight dealers. Until his resignation yesterday, and despite an unsatisfactory start as shadow chancellor, he was one of the few members of Labour’s underwhelming front bench to provide the party with any sort of voter appeal. His departure after only three months in the job is a terrible blow to Ed Miliband; it will have major consequences both for his leadership and Labour’s future direction. In fairness, Mr Johnson’s future had been in doubt from the moment he accepted his leader’s offer of the Treasury portfolio. The charismatic former postman’s easy-going style allowed him to laugh off his ignorance of basic economics, but in an age when the dismal science dominates all aspects of government activity, his insouciance never quite washed. That he seemed to disagree with just about every one of Mr Miliband’s policies, notably the imposition of a graduate tax and the entrenching of the 50p rate, only made things worse. Ultimately, the appealing human touch he brought to a front bench still bowed down by Gordon Brown’s toxic legacy would probably not have saved him. – Daily Telegraph

Alan Johnson after he announced his resignation from Labour’s frontbench. Many of them took to Twitter, with shadow Welsh secretary Peter Hain saying it was “very sad news” and former Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell describing Mr Johnson as a “really nice guy”. Labour former sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe told Sky News it was a “shock” and he would be “sadly missed”. “These are clearly personal reasons why he’s taken the decision that he has,” he said. “He will be sadly missed but we wish him well in sorting out the issues that he’s facing.” Mr Sutcliffe pledged that Labour’s “momentum” would “continue because there are lots of things we can challenge the Government on”. Shadow Treasury minister David Hanson wrote on Twitter: “Really sorry to hear of alan johnson resignation – great working with him at home office/shadow treasury. Has my best wishes as do new team.” Mr Hain wrote: “Alan is a personal friend. Have known him for 30 years when he was young CWU (Communication Workers Union) branch officer. We grew up together in TU (trade union) and Labour politics.” Labour former minister Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead tweeted: “Regret Alan has felt he had to resign. But change has been handled well and Labours (sic) team is very strong.” And Mr Campbell told his followers: “Alan Johnson really nice guy and good politician. Sad to hear his news. Ed Balls is the replacement Osborne did not want.” – Western Mail

Welcome Ed

The Alan Johnson cloud which burst so ­spectacularly last night has a silver lining for Ed Miliband. Losing the affable postie who held five Cabinet jobs is a big blow to Her Majesty’s opposition. But Johnson quitting for his family forced Miliband to do what he should have done in the first place – hand Ed Balls the Treasury brief. George Osborne will need a spare pair of breeches when he goes head-to-head with Bruiser Balls, a Tory-nator who knows more about economics than the Buller Boy ever will. Trust fund Tory “Sir” George liked to patronise Johnson, who didn’t have a head for figures. Try that with Balls and it’ll be bish-bash-bosh with Osborne begging to sign a resignation letter of his own. Balls has the brain power to show that spending and debt weren’t out of control and will demonstrate that we’re not “all in this together” while ­bankers enjoy Tory tax cuts. But his appointment isn’t entirely risk-free for Miliband. If he does brilliantly, he’ll be painted as the overshadowed leader. If he fails, Labour will remain hobbled by the lack of a credible economic ­position. But as they say, two Eds are always better than one. – Daily Mirror

Balls is back. The author of Gordon Brown’s economic policies for 15 years. The man who bears more responsibility for anyone else – other than Brown – for the asset bubble and the consequent crash. But I suspect that, right now, Theresa May is doing cartwheels and George Osborne cursing. Balls, for all his many drawbacks, is the most ferocious attack dog there is. His brilliance (and I hate using that word) at using numbers as weapons far surprassed anything the Tories could manage in Opposition. His policies are reckless: to borrow, and to hell with the consequences. His modus operandi is to launch around-the-clock attacks. He has powerful media contacts, and uses them to full effect. He is the most able fighter in Labour’s frontbench, as he proved in the leadership contest. Unloveable, yes, which is why he’d make a bad leader. But if I were Osborne, I know who’d I be praying not to be put up against. On TV tonight, Balls was grinning like a lottery winner, and immediately attacked the government for inflation – something everyone suffers. Its an obvious attack line, but was not obvious to Milipede and Johnson. Yes, Balls is unloveable. But he’s hired as a hit man. His role is to be the vicious villain: the economic equivalent to Jaws in the Bond films. He operates through proxies. And, yes, he predicted a double-dip – but the Tories would be ill-advised to crow. The economic ground is not cleared of landmines (especially with all these wobbling dominoes in Europe) and if something blows up, Balls will say something Osborne never could in opposition: ‘I told you so’. – Fraser Nelson, the Spectator

Everyone shuffle up one

The shakeup of the Labour frontbench propels Yvette Cooper into the post of shadow home secretary, making her the first woman to shadow another woman in the role. Cooper moves from shadow foreign secretary to become Theresa May’s shadow. Both also have responsibility for gender and equality issues. Cooper has been tipped as a possible future leader of the party after deciding not to stand last year when her husband, Ed Balls, competed. The Tories tonight claimed that, with the appointment of Balls as shadow chancellor, the Brownites were back in ascendance. Labour sources pointed out that some, including Tessa Jowell and Liam Byrne, had previously been seen as Blairites – but insisted that the whole team was moving on from the Brown-Blair divide. Douglas Alexander will replace Cooper as shadow foreign secretary. He in turn will be replaced as shadow work and pensions secretary by Byrne, who will continue to conduct a major policy review on behalf of Ed Miliband. Jowell was appointed minister for the Cabinet Office, keeping her brief for the Olympics. – the Guardian

Labour leader Ed Miliband has carried out a minor reshuffle of his shadow cabinet in the wake of Alan Johnson’s resignation. Ed Balls is the new shadow chancellor. His wife Yvette Cooper moves from shadow foreign secretary to take Balls’ old job as shadow home secretary. Shadow work and pensions secretary Douglas Alexander, who was international development secretary under Gordon Brown, has been handed the foreign affairs brief. He is replaced as work and pensions shadow by Liam Byrne. Shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell has been given the additional responsibility of shadowing the cabinet office. No-one has been brought into the shadow cabinet as a result of the reshuffle. – ePolitix

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One Response to “Friday News Review”

  1. Robert says:

    I do not know I think it will give the Tories more ammunition to attack labour, not that they need to much

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