Alan should return, but Ed will excel

by John Woodcock

Much of what has been written about Alan Johnson since Thursday has read like the obituary of a man who has stepped off the political stage for good.

That need not be the case; I hope he will want to return to the front line before too long.

Commentary pondering whether Alan’s relaxed temperament made his exit inevitable is as poorly-founded as the assertion that a man who excelled as a minister for a decade could be fairly labelled gaffe-prone after a single slip.

Worse is the suggestion that his comeback is unlikely because he will be in his mid-sixties by the next election and therefore past it. It is sad that the generation of politicians which banned age discrimination and abolished the compulsory retirement age seems under pressure to be ever more fresh-faced and youthful (not that fresh-faced youth is a bad thing, you understand).

But while sad for Alan, we are all looking forward to seeing Ed Balls get stuck into George Osborne in the way he did Michael Gove.

Ed excelled in the leadership campaign for his early recognition that it was often those just above the cut off level for targeted support who were among the most disillusioned with Labour by the end of our third term in government.

We will need those instincts in the tough months ahead.

It is, of course, essential that we speak up for current and future generations of college students set to be deprived of vital financial support; that we are angry on behalf of firms who are crying out for a better skills base and can ill-afford to see young people put off from further and higher education.

But we know we must also heed the message on the doorstep from slightly better off families whose children did not generally qualify for extra help. They were cross about that, and rightly demand that we prove we are on their side too.

John Woodcock is Labour and Cooperative MP for Barrow and Furness.

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One Response to “Alan should return, but Ed will excel”

  1. I think it might be more important that he was practicedly disloyal, particularly on tuition fees and the 50p rate. Which is an issue, especially given that he was previously known for loyalty.

    This and his lack of obvious enthusiasm for Ed Miliband makes it unlikely that the leadership will ask him to come back. He could always stand for the shad cab, of course, but he’d be less likely to get a good job as Ed will either be less vulnerable and therefore need to rely on tactical picks like Johnson into the Treasury post, or more vulnerable and therefore reluctant to give a newly re-elected Johnson a position from which he could be undercut.

    And I don’t really see the evidence that Alan Johnson has a deep and abiding desire to be Shadow Environment Minister.

    The resignation when he personally hadn’t done anything wrong suggests not just an understandable wish for privacy and a sense of honour, it suggests he’s no longer going to fight tooth and nail to stay in the Shadow Cabinet.

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