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.

Chuka Umunna speaks at the launch of Labour's education manifesto during the general election. Photograph: Getty Images.
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After so badly misjudging the leadership contest, how will the Blairites handle Corbyn?

The left-winger's opponents are divided between conciliation and aggression. 

When Labour lost the general election in May, the party’s modernisers sensed an opportunity. Ed Miliband, one of the most left-wing members of the shadow cabinet, had been unambiguously rejected and the Tories had achieved their first majority in 23 years. More than any other section of the party, the Blairites could claim to have foreseen such an outcome. Surely the pendulum would swing their way?

Yet now, as Labour’s leadership contest reaches its denouement, those on the right are asking themselves how they misjudged the landscape so badly. Their chosen candidate, Liz Kendall, is expected to finish a poor fourth and the party is poised to elect Jeremy Corbyn, the most left-wing leader in its 115-year history. For a faction that never ceases to underline the importance of winning elections, it will be a humbling result.

Though the crash has been sudden, the Blairites have long been in decline. Gordon Brown won the leadership unchallenged and senior figures such as John Reid, James Purnell and Alan Milburn chose to depart from the stage rather than fight on. In 2010, David Miliband, the front-runner in the leadership election, lost to his brother after stubbornly refusing to distance himself from the Iraq war and alienating undecided MPs with his imperiousness.

When the younger Miliband lost, the modernisers moved fast – too fast. “They’re behaving like family members taking jewellery off a corpse,” a rival campaign source told me on 9 May. Many Labour supporters agreed. The rush of op-eds and media interviews antagonised a membership that wanted to grieve in peace. The modernising contenders – Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall, Mary Creagh, Tristram Hunt – gave the impression that the Blairites wanted to drown out all other voices. “It was a huge mistake for so many players from that wing of the party to be put into the field,” a shadow cabinet minister told me. “In 1994, forces from the soft left to the modernising right united around Tony Blair. The lesson is never again can we have multiple candidates.”

While conducting their post-mortem, the Blairites are grappling with the question of how to handle Corbyn. For some, the answer is simple. “There shouldn’t be an accommodation with Corbyn,” John McTernan, Blair’s former director of political operations, told me. “Corbyn is a disaster and he should be allowed to be his own disaster.” But most now adopt a more conciliatory tone. John Woodcock, the chair of Progress, told me: “If he wins, he will be the democratically elected leader and I don’t think there will be any serious attempt to actually depose him or to make it impossible for him to lead.”

Umunna, who earlier rebuked his party for “behaving like a petulant child”, has emphasised that MPs “must accept the result of our contest when it comes and support our new leader in developing an agenda that can return Labour to office”. The shadow business secretary even suggests that he would be prepared to discuss serving in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet if he changed his stances on issues such as nuclear disarmament, Nato, the EU and taxation. Were Umunna, a former leadership contender, to adopt a policy of aggression, he would risk being blamed should Corbyn fail.

Suggestions that the new parliamentary group Labour for the Common Good represents “the resistance” are therefore derided by those close to it. The organisation, which was launched by Umunna and Hunt before Corbyn’s surge, is aimed instead at ensuring the intellectual renewal that modernisers acknowledge has been absent since 2007. It will also try to unite the party’s disparate mainstream factions: the Blairites, the Brownites, the soft left, the old right and Blue Labour. The ascent of Corbyn, who has the declared support of just 15 MPs (6.5 per cent of the party), has persuaded many that they cannot afford the narcissism of small differences. “We need to start working together and not knocking lumps out of each other,” Woodcock says. There will be no defections, no SDP Mk II. “Jeremy’s supporters really underestimate how Labour to the core the modernisers are,” Pat McFadden, the shadow Europe minister, told me.

Although they will not change their party, the Blairites are also not prepared to change their views. “Those of us on this side of Labour are always accused of being willing to sell out for power,” a senior moderniser told me. “Well, we do have political principles and they’re not up for bartering.” He continued: “Jeremy Corbyn is not a moderate . . .
He’s an unreconstructed Bennite who regards the British army as morally equivalent to the IRA. I’m not working with that.”

Most MPs believe that Corbyn will fail but they are divided on when. McFadden has predicted that the left-winger “may even get a poll bounce in the short term, because he’s new and thinking differently”. A member of the shadow cabinet suggested that Labour could eventually fall to as low as 15 per cent in the polls and lose hundreds of councillors.

The challenge for the Blairites is to reboot themselves in time to appear to be an attractive alternative if and when Corbyn falters. Some draw hope from the performance of Tessa Jowell, who they still believe will win the London mayoral selection. “I’ve spoken to people who are voting enthusiastically both for Jeremy and for Tessa,” Wes Streeting, the newly elected MP for Ilford North, said. “They have both run very optimistic, hopeful, positive campaigns.”

But if Corbyn falls, it does not follow that the modernisers will rise. “The question is: how do we stop it happening again if he does go?” a senior frontbencher said. “He’s got no interest or incentive to change the voting method. We could lose nurse and end up with something worse.” If the road back to power is long for Labour, it is longest of all for the Blairites. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 03 September 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Pope of the masses