Alan Johnson: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 Alan Johnson 

Assumed office 
5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Jacqui Smith

In office
28 June 2007 – 5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Patricia Hewitt
Succeeded by Andrew Burnham

In office
5 May 2006 – 28 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Ruth Kelly
Succeeded by Ed Balls (at Children, Schools and Families)
John Denham (at Innovation, Universities and Skills)

In office
6 May 2005 – 5 May 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Patricia Hewitt
Succeeded by Alistair Darling

In office
8 September 2004 – 6 May 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Andrew Smith
Succeeded by David Blunkett

Member of Parliament
for Hull West and Hessle
Assumed office 
1 May 1997
Preceded by Stuart Randall (Hull West)
Majority 9,450 (34.0%)

Born 17 May 1950 (1950-05-17) (age 59)
Paddington, United Kingdom
Political party Labour

Alan Arthur Johnson (born 17 May 1950) is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Hull West and Hessle since 1997. He has been the Home Secretary since June 2009, and before that filled a wide variety of Cabinet positions, including both Health and Education Secretary. He is the first former trade union leader to become a Cabinet Minister since Frank Cousins in 1964.


Early life

Born in London, and orphaned at the age of 12 when his mother died, Johnson was then effectively brought up by his older sister when the two were assigned a council flat by their child welfare officer.[1][2] He passed the 11 plus exam and attended Sloane Grammar School in Chelsea and left school at the age of 15.[2] He then stacked shelves at Tesco before becoming a postman at 18.[1] He was interested in music and joined two pop music bands.[2] 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.[3] A full-time union official from 1987, he became General Secretary of the newly formed Communication Workers Union in 1993 following a series of union mergers.

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

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

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. After the 2005 election he was appointed to the post of Secretary of State for Productivity, Energy and Industry as head of a department which replaced the DTI but which soon reverted to the old name. On 5 May 2006, one day after the English local elections, his brief was changed to that of Secretary of State for Education and Skills, replacing Ruth Kelly.

He became Secretary of State for Health on 28 June 2007, in the first Cabinet of new Prime Minister Gordon Brown, succeeding Patricia Hewitt. He was later appointed to the position of Home Secretary, one of the four Great Offices of State, in a turbulent reshuffle on 5 June 2009, succeeding Jacqui Smith.

Education Secretary

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.[4] Johnson has also previously expressed some concerns over diplomas.[5] Johnson has also opened-up a debate in parliament discussing what parental situation is best. He stated it is the parents themselves who make the difference not what marital situation they are in.[6] Johnson looked at improving pay and working conditions for teachers during his tenure as Education Secretary.[7]

His voting record from the Public Whip sees him voting strongly in favour of ID Cards and student top-up fees. He also voted strongly in favour of the Iraq war and Labour's anti-terror laws, and strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war. [8]

Deputy Leadership

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. Some suggested he might stand against Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour Party when Tony Blair resigned, and various reports in the summer of 2006 suggested he would become the favoured candidate of the Blairite faction[citation needed].

Johnson told the BBC in an interview on 9 November 2006[9] 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,[10] 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.

Initially the Communication Workers Union announced its support of him for deputy leader but after negative reaction to this at the 2007 CWU conference the union decided not to recommend anyone.

Health Secretary

Johnson became Secretary of State for Health on 28 June 2007, succeeding Patricia Hewitt in Prime Minister Gordon Brown's first Cabinet. He later became slightly infamous for attacking 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.”[11]

Home Secretary

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.[12]

Drug policy

In October 2009 Alan Johnson sacked the Chair 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,[13] 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,[14] 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."[15] In response Professor Nutt stated "If scientists are not allowed to engage in the debate at this interface then you devalue their contribution to policy making and undermine a major source of carefully considered and evidence based advice."[16] Two other scientific advisors to the ACMD, Dr Les King, and Marion Walker, resigned shortly afterwards.[17][18]

On 2 November 2009, Mr Johnson told Parliament that Professor Nutt’s comments during a lecture had been made “without prior notice to the Home Office and had breached guidelines”. Later, doubt was cast on the integrity of this information, leading to an accusation that Mr Johnson had misled Parliament.[19]

The rules of conduct allow any adviser to represent his field of expertise in a personal capacity, providing they make it clear when they are not speaking in their capacity as committee members. People present have provided assurances that this condition was fulfilled.[20] The guidelines make no stipulation that the Home Office should be given prior notice, except for "media appearances" that members have been asked to undertake on behalf of the ACMD, or which specifically cover the work of the ACMD. The lecture reputedly took place without an invited media presence.

In any case, Dr Evan Harris MP has said that the professor had discussed his paper with the Home Office's chief scientific adviser beforehand and that the lecture had even been advertised on the Home Office's website.[21] Five more members of the advisory committee resigned following a meeting with Mr Johnson on the 10 November 2009.

In January, 2010, Professor Nutt established the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, with the aim of publishing honest drug information.[22]

Torture of Binyam Mohamed

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, Mr Johnson insisted that the media coverage of the torture had been “baseless, groundless accusations”[23]. 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[24].

Personal life

Johnson has been married twice. Firstly to Judith Cox, in 1968, with whom he has one son and two daughters. After his divorce he married Laura Jane Patient in 1991, with whom he has one son[25] who was born in 2000.[26] Johnson, when asked by a Mail on Sunday survey in 2004 if he believed in God, replied that he did not.[25]


  1. ^ a b The charming Mr Johnson, The Economist, 14 September 2006
  2. ^ a b c "Desert Island Discs with Alan Johnson". Desert Island Discs. BBC. Radio 4. 2007-10-07.
  3. ^ "NS profile: Alan Johnson". New Statesman. Retrieved 2006-08-20. 
  4. ^ "Parents urged to read to children". BBC news. 2007-03-15. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  5. ^ "Diplomas 'may go horribly wrong'". BBC news. 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  6. ^ "Johnson opens up family debate". BBC news. 2007-02-27. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  7. ^ "Fairer pay for part-time teachers". BBC news. 2007-02-07. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  8. ^ "Alan Johnson MP, Kingston upon Hull West & Hessle". Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  9. ^ "Johnson backing Brown for leader". BBC news. 2006-11-09. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  10. ^ "Harman wins deputy leader contest". BBC news. 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  11. ^ Goldstein, Jacob (2008-02-21). "U.K. Wrestles Over Private Payment for Health Care - Health Blog - WSJ". Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  12. ^ "I won't walk away, insists Brown". BBC News Online (BBC). 5 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  13. ^ Tran, Mark (30 October 2009). Government drug adviser David Nutt sacked. The Guardian.
  14. ^ Travis, Alan (February 2009). "Government criticised over refusal to downgrade ecstasy". The Guardian. 
  15. ^ Easton, Mark (30 October 2009). Nutt gets the sack. BBC News.
  16. ^ "Mark Easton's UK: Nutt gets the sack". BBC. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  17. ^ Government drugs adviser Dr Les King resigns. BBC News. 1 November 2009.
  18. ^ Government drugs adviser Marion Walker resigns. BBC News. 1 November 2009.
  19. ^ "Times Online - Alan Johnson accused of misleading Parliament". 2009-11-09. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  20. ^ "Times Online - Eureka Zone - WBLG: David Nutt's controversial lecture conformed to government guidelines". 2009-03-29. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  21. ^ Johnson 'misled MPs over adviser'. BBC News. 8 November 2009.
  22. ^
  23. ^ [1]. Time Online. 12 Feb 2010.
  24. ^ [2]. The Guardian. 12 Feb 2010.
  25. ^ a b "While Blair converts to Catholicism, only 8 Ministers say they believe in God". Daily Mail. 2007-12-08. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  26. ^ "Q&A: Alan Johnson | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Stuart Randall
as Member of Parliament for Hull West
Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle
Political offices
Preceded by
Andrew Smith
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Succeeded by
David Blunkett
Preceded by
Patricia Hewitt
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Succeeded by
Alistair Darling
Preceded by
Ruth Kelly
Secretary of State for Education and Skills
Succeeded by
Ed Balls
as Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
Succeeded by
John Denham
as Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
Preceded by
Patricia Hewitt
Secretary of State for Health
Succeeded by
Andy Burnham
Preceded by
Jacqui Smith
Home Secretary
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Alan Tuffin
General Secretary of the Union of Communication Workers
Position abolished
New title General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union
Succeeded by
Derek Hodgson

Simple English

Alan Arthur Johnson (born 17 May 1950) is an English politician and former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has been the Member of Parliament for the Hull West and Hessle constituency in the United Kingdom since the 1997 general election.

He is a member of the Labour Party.


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