Alan Johnson leads fight against Government's cuts programme

Alan Johnson's reputation as a good-natured bruiser ready to tackle any fight will be sorely tested in the key role of shadow chancellor.







He had been the most cheerful and unstuffy member of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's Cabinets, holding a succession of posts from Work and Pensions Secretary to Trade Secretary to Education Secretary, to Health Secretary and finally Home Secretary.



His amiable nature has sometimes belied a tough political operator but it nevertheless ensured his popularity, not merely among all wings of the Labour movement but among his political opponents as well.



He was beaten by Harriet Harman to the party's deputy leadership in 2007, despite being an early favourite, but accepted that defeat with typical good grace.



Alan Arthur Johnson was born on May 17, 1950 and orphaned at an early age. He was virtually brought up by his elder sister.



He was educated at Sloane Grammar school, Chelsea, leaving school at the age of 15 without any qualifications. Johnson stacked shelves at Tesco before becoming a postman in London in 1968, when he also joined the Union of Communication Workers.



Mr Johnson had a brief brush with the Communist Party, but his trade union activity seemed to be his major concern. He was transferred to Slough in Berkshire in 1969 and was elected to the branch committee of the union in 1973 and chairman of the Slough branch in 1976.



He was elected to the National Executive Council of the UCW in 1981 and six years later became a full-time officer of the union, mainly responsible for national negotiations on behalf of the 100,000 postal, delivery and sorting staff.



And in 1982 he became the youngest general secretary in the history of the UCW.



Before entering Parliament in 1997, he served on the general council of the TUC and was a member of the ruling National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.



And when, in 1995, the UCW merged with the National Communication Union, Johnson became joint general secretary.



Johnson was elected Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle in 1997, the year of Blair's first Labour landslide. His maiden speech concerned the problems of trawlermen, saying that in 150 years, Hull had lost 900 boats at sea.



He regularly spoke in the Commons on Post Office issues and on electoral reform, working time, fairness at work, fishermen's compensation and the loss of the trawler "Gaul".



After two stints as a parliamentary private secretary, Johnson was appointed as competition minister at the Department of Trade and Industry in 1999, and the following year became minister of higher education, even though he had himself left school at the age of 15.



After the 2001 General Election, Johnson was appointed minister of state for employment relations and regions, and in the reshuffle two years later he became minister of state for lifelong learning, higher and further education.



He entered the Cabinet in September 2004 as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and began his succession of posts in the top ranks of government.



Now he faces the key job of spearheading Labour's opposition to the coalition's cuts programme.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager - Enfield, North Lond...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea