All 4 entries tagged Alan Johnson

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June 24, 2007

Silly voting systems?

Alan Johnson received far more first, second, third and fourth-preference votes than Harriet Harman.

Harriet Harman is still Labour Deputy Leader.

Fourth round:
Jon Cruddas 30.06%
Harriet Harman 33.58%
Alan Johnson 36.35%

Fifth round:
Harriet Harman 50.43%
Alan Johnson 49.56%

So Jon Cruddas’ votes went to Harman then.

November 20, 2006

How not to stop bullying

I’m normally a fan of Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary. But I can’t even stifle a laugh at his ridiculous suggestion today of fining the parents of school bullies up to £1,000.

The government seem to have a fascination with fining people for things, to the extent that you think it must all have been dreamt up by Gordon Brown in a bid to make more money.

But if there’s one way not to stop bullying, it’s by hitting people in the pocket. For one thing, it’s displacing the blame onto parents when the immediate issue is with their child. But it also breeds the idea that you can get away with bullying someone as long as you’re willing to stump up £1,000 afterwards.

A much better idea would be for community service for under-18s. Or to run courses for trouble-makers during school holidays.

September 15, 2006

Alan Johnson's Big Dilemma

Alan Johnson faces a tough decision: run for the Labour leadership and probably lose to Gordon Brown, or run for the Deputy leadership and face a tough battle with big names like Jack Straw. But the real dilemma is: if not Johnson versus Brown, then who else?

According to The Guardian today, Alan Johnson is under pressure from Blairites in the Labour Party (those that remain!) to run for the leadership. But a ‘close friend’ says he’d rather be Deputy to someone else, like Gordon Brown.

You can see why when you examine the figures from the Electoral Reform Society, which puts John McDonnell ahead of Brown and Johnson in the minds of over 200 trade unionists at the TUC Conference. Johnson has a mountain to climb with the unions, a group both key to the election of the next leader – and deputy – but also wary of Johnson who in many ways should be a natural ally.

With Jack Straw expected to declare his intention to run for the Deputy Leadership at the weekend, Alan Johnson’s position is precarious. He would be in real danger of losing both elections (like Margaret Beckett) and facing a disappointing future career in the Cabinet (or even outside).

But the real question for Alan Johnson is: if he isn’t the quasi-Blairite to run for the leadership, who will be? Perhaps Charles Clarke. Maybe John Reid. But his head is probably telling him that neither would stand much of a chance against Brown.

With the pace of the leadership election quickening by the day (I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t declare something at the weekend), Johnson is going to have to make decisions quickly or he’ll be left behind with too much ground to make up.

June 05, 2006

Musical Chairs at Dorneywood

Disloyalty accounts for around 51% of politics (the remaining 49% being a combination of spin, nonsense, compromise and loose consensus).

Recent weeks in the Labour Party haven't deviated from this little formula. Firstly the party failed to unite around Charles Clarke in his hour–of–need (although put in their shoes I think I'd do the same), and more recently it has been open–season on John Prescott's position following his affairs and general lack of a raison d'etre.

Those who haven't reached the full potential of their political careers (Harman, Benn, Johnson, Hain, perhaps Jack Straw too), are taking this moment to jockey for a position which the last nine years have proven to be immensely important to the party, if not to the country as a whole. Prescott has been many things, and these things have often been derogatory, but one essential role he has played is a bridge from the left of the Party to the New Labour core.

With Gordon "charisma of a sprout" Brown destined for Number 10, and considering his apparent devotion to the New Labour cause, the occupant of Dorneywood again needs to be a bridge between the PM and the 'rest' of the party. Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian today says that Labour has become disconnected from those who it purports to represent, because its leaders have become used to

holidays with the Berlusconis; a taste for property and investments; thousands of pounds on hairdressing budgets

rather than working as a milkman, engineer or postman.

Which brings me neatly to Alan Johnson. The man who knows Dorneywood already (from the days when he was the postman in the local area) seems to be perfect for the job, so long as Gordon's date with destiny comes true. Otherwise he'd be a very popular potential leader.

Johnson's a true unionist, but one that has firmly converted to the church of the New Labourites. Yet he still seems to connect with the voters that just about everyone outside of the Labour Party would say is a rarity amongst Labour ministers. Johnson only came into the Commons in 1997 and is supposed to be one of the most vigorous supporters of electoral reform, which can only be a good thing.

He still refers to allies as comrades but in a recent speech to a group of left–wingers made promising noises that suggested he could bring the Labour party along with a potential Johnson–led Labour leadership. He emphasised "economic development–as–freedom", "the democratization of everyday life" and "faith in the capacities of our fellows". These are not words you hear from Blair and Brown. They appeal to trade unionists. But they also appeal to the typical citizen without being so vague as to avoid possible contradiction (see Michael Howard's statement of beliefs before the 2005 election).

That is why, despite what Martin Kettle says, the deputy leadership of the Labour Party should matter to real people. The contest shouldn't be a matter of putting in a female candidate for the sake of it, or of finding a counterbalance for Brown.

And yes, the contest is premature, but it represents the knowledge that Labour backbenchers can attempt to oust the Deputy PM in a way which they can only dream of when it comes to Blair.

But when the contest does, inevitably happen, what Alan Johnson would bring to the deputy leadership – and make the role much more important to the public – is a sense of the common touch and the sense of purpose which nine years of government seems to have drained from the Labour party.

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