Alan Johnson speaks at the Labour conference in 2010. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Alan Johnson should return to the shadow cabinet, says Mary Creagh

Shadow transport secretary says former cabinet minister has "a huge contribution still to make to politics".

After David Cameron's Night of the Long Knives, Ed Miliband is likely to take the chance to freshen his top team before the general election. As I've previously reported, Miliband may use his final reshuffle to achieve gender parity in the shadow cabinet, fulfilling a pledge he made during the Labour leadership election. At present, women make up 44 per cent of the his team, putting him within touching distance of his target. By contrast, even after Cameron's recent reshuffle, just 25 per cent of the cabinet are female. Lucy Powell, the shadow childcare minister, and Luciana Berger, the shadow public health minister, are two of those tipped for promotion by party insiders. 

But while Miliband has long championed "the new generation" (31 per cent of his shadow cabinet are 2010ers), others in Labour are urging him to bring back "big beasts" from the past, with Alan Johnson the most popular choice. Tom Watson, Len McCluskey and John Prescott have all called for the former home secretary to return to the shadow cabinet. 

Now, in an interview with the NS, Mary Creagh has added her voice to those backing a Johnson comeback. She told me: 

I would love Alan to come back into the shadow cabinet. I think he’s fantastic ... He's got a huge contribution still to make to politics. 

She added: "But I also want him to keep writing his books, because they’re fantastic too. I read This Boy; I thought it was wonderful, I cried when I read when it, it was just so incredibly moving. You understand where Alan comes from in a completely different way, but it was also a beautiful tribute to the west London working class life that he had. 

"He showed a different world and a different approach, and a different model of fatherhood. But also the generosity of the people around them, giving them a box of groceries because they never quite had enough food.

"So would I want to see Alan come back? Yeh, definitely. I think Alan’s got a huge contribution still to make to politics."

But for someone to come back, someone else has to make way. Ahead of Miliband's reshuffle, then (expected after Labour's conference), some of Creagh's shadow cabinet colleagues face a nervous wait. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496