A Pleasant Surprise- Alan Johnson

I can't believe the Daily Mail had the best image I could find.

It feels appropriate writing my first post for what will surely become the most unconventional left wing blog of all time, on such an anomalous and remarkable happening.

Of all Ed’s options for Shadow Chancellor, Mr Johnson seemed the least likely candidate. Clearly the tories thought the same way, with the Transport Minister Phil Hammond describing the man as more or less an enigma- an ‘unknown quantity’ in economic terms. Which, most probably, is why ‘Steady Eddie’ gave him the job- as the recently coined nickname* would indicate, the new headman is in danger of becoming too predictable; doubters claim his tenure as leader will certainly be defined by adhering excessively to trade union wishes, and not adequately transforming the party into a new electable force. As we see here though, our man is already disproving the claims of the skeptics, and shaking up the spectrum, much to the chagrin of the government.

While we know about as much as Hammond regarding Alan’s fiscal ideology (aside from the fact he originally considered himself aligned with The Communist Party of Great Britain when he first joined Labour in 1971, of course), there’s a myriad of reasons that support Ed Miliband’s decision. Primarily, there is the personal element; whichever way you look at it, Johnson is a likeable chap. The amiable fellow has strong morals concerning the NHS and teacher’s pay, in addition to an obvious sense of humour. This forms a huge contrast to his opposite number- George Osborne, who was already the Conservative’s nasty man before he became the current administration’s axeman. As Osborne evolves into a figure even more despised by the general public as the unduly rapid cuts bite, the smiling, wise face of the welfare-minded Alan Johnson, untainted as he is by lack of alignment to either of the two camps that ravaged the party before, will grow all the more appealing.

There’s more to the character-side of the appointment than the mere ‘nice guy’ factor. AJ’s life story is representative of the very essence and spirit of the Labour Party- leaving school at 15, he went on to rise to the top tier of the party hierarchy from being a postman at the age of 18. Johnson is a senior and experienced activist, but is definitely not a ‘career politician’- real life experience is an increasingly rare trait in leading politicians valued and respected by working people, possibly above all others. Let us not forget that Johnson was also favoured for party leadership by many MPs and party members who were feeling disillusioned, as well as unenthusiastic with the final candidate list, so increased party unity is sure to be a benefit of this appointment.

Naturally there are negative aspects to the nomination. With absolutely no disrespect intended, Alan Johnson is an older politician- and while experience comes with age, it adds another layer of mystery regarding what exactly Mr Miliband meant by a ‘new generation’ of a labour administration. Combine this with the fact that Johnson was of course a prominent member of the previous government, and Ed’s message becomes more unclear. The new Shadow Chancellor will find it difficult to escape the negative connotations that surround Brown’s premiership in the eyes of the electorate; unpopular ideas that he advocated during his time in office, such as ID cards (albeit taking a more relaxed stance towards them) and increased student fees may come back to haunt him.

Nevertheless, Johnson does contribute to the concept of a ‘new face’ for Labour. That he is a supporter of some level of electoral reform, together with the unprecedented nature of his selection and distance from the generally favoured TU candidate for the job (Ed Balls) goes some way towards weakening the detrimental notion of a ‘Labour aristocracy’, that is closed minded and predictable.

This is the first step towards making the Labour Party unique and distinct again, and it was desperately needed- with ICM research today showing 53% in favour and 37% in opposition to the Coalition’s current policy direction, it has become evident that there is no Miliband ‘honeymoon period’ occurring. Standout decisions that contrast from the old are a necessity to bring the party back to the fore.

As an aside, surely it’s plain to all that the fact no one saw this coming supports comrade Ed’s statement that he is being his ‘own man’? Anyways, keep plogging on.


*It was The Telegraph’s idea. I used it to advance a point, in no way do I endorse use of it. It does sound somewhat more elegant than ‘Red Ed’ though.


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