I can’t help wondering if there was more to the now former Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson stepping down than meets the eye. The official reason was the classic “personal reasons” and to spend more time with his family at a difficult time. Rumours abound as I write this that it has to do with his wife Laura allegedly having a relationship with a police protection officer assigned to her and her high profile husband. Scotland Yard’s standards watchdog is looking into this.
However, Mr Johnson did make a monumental gaffe on TV the other day when he got the National Insurance rate wrong in answer to a direct question from his Sky News interviewer Dermot Murnaghan (who could hardly contain his excitement it seemed when the Labour front bencher messed up). A pretender to the Chancellor’s crown getting such a basic fact wrong while attempting to slam the Tory record was pretty bad, even allowing for the fact that he has little economics experience behind him. I could have got that one right!
Maybe that added to his decision to step down, or perhaps the personal distress he is having to deal with caused a mental block. There had been questions about the suitability of his appointment to the role previously. After all, would a Bodyguard-style affair in itself in this day and age really warrant him stepping down? If Mr Johnson had been having an affair it would have been a different matter perhaps. But if these rumours do prove to be true, surely there would have been a significant amount of sympathy for him as the cuckolded party? No resignation needed.
People in such high profile positions do have an extraordinary strain on their family life. There is constant scrutiny, not just from the opposition parties, but from the media as well, to deal with on top of the every day stresses and strains of family life that we all live through. It just seems it is pressure on top of pressure on top of pressure. I wouldn’t want a politician’s job no matter how much I could claim in expenses.
If he had worked in a different career, I am pretty sure Mr Johnson would not have considered quitting. If he had still been a postman or working for the unions, I guess he would not have had a protection officer for his wife to get close to, you could argue. Fair point, but if a partner did have a relationship with someone else during that time, would he have felt the need to resign?
By all accounts, he was a well-liked, affable chap who will be missed by Labour at a time when the Left-side front bench appears to be populated by power-hungry young guns.
The concept of a career putting pressure on a relationship is one that I think many people can relate to. It doesn’t have to be a high flying career. It could simply be a difficult shift pattern that puts strain on a family, or a demanding boss pushing an individual for extra hours.
There is no answer to the problem I fear. I am just sorry to see a leading politician forced to back away from a job having done nothing wrong himself – the odd hiccup on live TV aside.