Alan Johnson resigns as shadow chancellor

Ed Balls named as shadow chancellor as Johnson stands down “for personal reasons”.

Alan Johnson has just announced his resignation as shadow chancellor "for personal reasons". After a strong start to 2011, Ed Miliband now faces the biggest crisis of his leadership. Ed Balls has been named as Johnson's replacement, with Yvette Cooper taking over from her husband as shadow home secretary. Douglas Alexander will replace Cooper as shadow foreign secretary.

Below is the full text of Johnson's statement:

I have decided to resign from the shadow cabinet for personal reasons to do with my family. I have found it difficult to cope with these personal issues in my private life whilst carrying out an important front-bench role.

I am grateful to Ed Miliband for giving me the opportunity to serve as shadow chancellor of the exchequer. He is proving to be a formidable leader of the Labour Party and has shown me nothing but support and kindness.

My time in parliament will now be dedicated to serving my constituents and supporting the Labour Party. I will make no further comment about this matter.

After Johnson's recent political troubles, his decision to stand down comes as no surprise. His public disagreements with Ed Miliband over the 50p tax rate and the graduate tax damaged his cause from the start. Then, in quick succession, he failed to name the employers' rate of National Insurance, mistakenly suggested that VAT applied to food and appeared unsure of his own party's deficit reduction plan.

He was swiftly identified by the Tories as the weak link in Labour's armoury and was ridiculed by David Cameron at PMQs (Johnson was a notable absence this week). The man who was once spoken of as a future Labour leader became the laughing stock of Westminster.

Yet everything we're hearing suggests the decision was taken for purely personal reasons. There is nothing to suggest he was pushed out by Ed Miliband, who attempted to persuade him to stay. We can expect the Tories to focus on the appointment of Balls, the true "son of Brown", rather than the departure of Johnson.

Below is the new shadow cabinet.

Leader of the Opposition
Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Rt Hon Ed Balls MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP

Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities
Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP

Chief Whip
Rt Hon Rosie Winterton MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Election Co-ordinator
Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP

Shadow Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice (with responsibility for political and constitutional reform)
Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (with responsibility for the policy review)
Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Rt Hon John Denham MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Health
Rt Hon John Healey MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Angela Eagle MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Meg Hillier MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Maria Eagle MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Mary Creagh MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Rt Hon Shaun Woodward MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Ann McKechin MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales
Rt Hon Peter Hain MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Ivan Lewis MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Lords
Rt Hon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Olympics
Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP

Lords Chief Whip
Rt Hon Lord Bassam of Brighton

Shadow Attorney General
Rt Hon Baroness Scotland of Ashtal QC

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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