Don't rule me out for leader, says Johnson

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, has not ruled out standing for Labour's leadership if Gordon Brown is forced to stand down.

Allies of Mr Johnson have dismissed reports that he would back David Miliband as part of a "dream ticket", and have been quietly reassuring Labour MPs, trade unionists and activists on the margins of the party conference that he has not struck a deal to step to one side in the event of a leadership contest. He has come under growing pressure this week to run for the top job.

Speculation that Mr Johnson would back David Miliband was prompted by his praise for the Foreign Secretary at the weekend. Of the leadership, Mr Johnson said: "I haven't any false modesty but I don't aspire to that job."

Friends say his remarks have been misinterpreted, he is not manoeuvring against Mr Brown and was among the ministers to rally strongly behind him at a cabinet meeting last week, when some members questioned his strategy. Mr Johnson believes this is not the time to raise the leadership issue and Mr Brown needs time to revive Labour.

But while not actively seeking the leadership, the Health Secretary would consider his position if Mr Brown stands down. One close ally told The Independent: "Some people thought he was saying there was a deal and a 'dream ticket' with David Miliband but that is not the case. He did not say he would not run or that he would support David." Another Johnson ally said: "His approach is 'never say never'."

Some of the 12 rebel Labour MPs who have demanded a leadership election would back Mr Johnson. They believe the former postman, brought up by his sister after his parents died, has a good "life story" which would enable Labour to fight the resurgent Tories. One said: "He would be the perfect antidote to David Cameron. He would reach parts of the electorate others couldn't reach."

Although Mr Miliband remains the front-runner if Mr Brown departs, critics of the Foreign Secretary say he failed to enhance his claims as a future leader in his conference speech on Monday. They also seized on reports that he allegedly remarked that he had toned down his speech to avoid a "Heseltine moment" – meaning Michael Heseltine's attempts to oust Margaret Thatcher. Yesterday Mr Miliband dismissed the BBC's report about his Heseltine remark as "hearsay", insisting: "I do not accept the allegations."

Lord Heseltine agreed Mr Miliband was right not to want to be seen to strike at the leader. "He who wields the knife never wears the crown," he said.

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
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas