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.

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When Theresa May speaks, why don’t we listen?

Not many Prime Ministers have to repeat themselves three times. 

Theresa May is the candidate of Brexit and market panic. She ascended to the highest office because, in the fraught weeks after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, she represented a safe haven for nervous Conservative MPs, the dependable family mutual that remained open while all along the Conservative high street, her rivals were shutting up shop.

Her popularity, as revealed in high poll ratings outside Westminster, too, owes itself to the perception that she is a serious politician in serious times, happily installed atop the ship of state to guide it through the rocky waters of Brexit negotiations.

May’s premiership has been defined by market panics of a different kind, however. The first is in the currency markets, where sterling takes a tumble whenever she pronounces on Britain’s future relationship with the European Union, falling both after her conference speech on 2 October and after her start-of-the-year interview with Sophy Ridge on 8 January. The second is in the opinion pages, where May’s stock oscillates wildly from bullish to bearish.

In the first months of May’s government, she was hailed as an Anglo-Saxon counterpart to Angela Merkel: a solid centre-right Christian democrat who would usher in a decade of conservative hegemony. More recently, she has been compared to Gordon Brown because of her perceived indecisiveness and repeatedly accused of failing to spell out what, exactly, her government’s Brexit objectives are.

In a symbol of the splits on the right between the Brexiteers and Remainers, the Economist, that bible of free-market globalisation and usually a reliable tastemaker as far as Westminster groupthink is concerned, began 2017 by dubbing the Prime Minister “Theresa Maybe”. Though May’s Downing Street is less concerned with the minutiae of what goes on in the public press than David Cameron’s, the contention that she is indecisive was a source of frustration.

There is an element of truth in the claim that May still views the world through a “Home Office lens”. One senior minister complains that Downing Street considers the Ministry of Justice as a “rogue outpost” of May’s old stomping ground, rather than a fully fledged department with its own interests and perspectives.

Yet even the most authoritarian of home secretaries would struggle to secure a conviction against May on the charge of opacity as far as her Brexit approach is concerned. She has hit the same grace notes with the reliability of a professional musician: Brexit means freedom from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and control over Britain’s borders, two objectives that can only be achieved as a result of Britain’s exit not only from the EU but also the single market. This was confirmed on 17 January in the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech in London.

David Cameron used to say that he would never have “a people”. Certainly, there is no Cameroon tendency in the country at large to match the generation of council house residents that became homeowners and lifelong Conservatives because of Margaret Thatcher and Right to Buy. However, there is, unquestionably, a Cameroon people or faction to be found at almost every rung of London’s financial services sector or at editorial meetings of the Economist, though it as at the Times and the Sun where the treatment of May is at its most noticably rougher than in the Cameron era. 

Michael Gove, her old rival, is not only employed as a columnist by the Times; he enjoys the confidence and admiration of Rupert Murdoch. That the Times secured the first British interview with Donald Trump was a coup for Murdoch, an old associate of the president-elect, and for Gove, who conducted it. It left May in the unlovely position of making history as the first prime minister to be scooped to a first meeting with a new American president by a sitting MP in modern times. It also attested to a source of frustration among May’s allies that she is, for all her undoubted popularity, still ignored or doubted by much of the right-wing establishment.

That condescension partly explains why her words are often listened to briefly, acted on hastily and swiftly forgotten, hence the pound’s cycle of falling when she makes an intervention on Brexit and rising shortly thereafter. The Lancaster House speech was designed to break this pattern. Downing Street briefed the most potent paragraphs at the weekend so that the markets could absorb what she would say before she said it.

As a result, the pound rallied as May delivered her speech, which contained a commitment to a transitional deal that would come into effect after Britain has left the EU. Some financiers believe this arrangement could become permanent, which once again demonstrates how much they underestimate May’s ability to enforce her will.

Being underestimated by Cameron’s people, in Westminster and the City, has the unintended effect of shoring up Theresa May’s position. A prolonged and sustained bout of panic would increase the pressure for a soft landing, but its absence makes it harder for Labour to oppose her effectively, although it has largely acquiesced to the Tory plan for Brexit, at least as far as membership of the single market is concerned. 

Yet for all the plaudits that the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech attracted, for all her undoubted popularity in the country, she is in the anomalous position of being a Conservative Prime Minister who has priorities on the European stage other than the preservation of the City of London and to whom Rupert Murdoch is not a natural ally.

As such, she may find that her deadlier enemies come from the right.

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