What’s behind Johnson’s deputy leadership move?

What’s behind Johnson’s deputy leadership move?

    Is this the prelude to something bigger?

Alan Johnson, the 13/1 second favourite to become Tony Blair’s successor, is making a move this weekend that will heighten his profile within the party and could well be a springboard to a top job bid.

A much-trailed interview to be shown on GMTV on Sunday has him declaring that his interest in becoming Deputy – should John Prescott step down. He says; “People have asked me if, when there is a vacancy, if I’d be interested in that vacancy and I’ve said quite honestly: yes, I would.”

Johnson goes on to say that he “very much hopes” that Prescott will continue and and he is “a world away” from any campaign. All very loyal and all very astute.

    For while Johnson has the benefit of being a fresh face he is still relatively unknown. His comments, which interestingly are being released two full days before the interview, will put him up the media agenda this weekend and help establish himself as a serious player.

When questioned about the top job Johnson, quite wisely, rules out speculation that this is what he is after.

Johnson is a former London postman who rose to become the youngest General Secretary of his union. He has only been in the Commons since 1997 but is hugely popular amongst his fellow MPs which could be crucial. He’s also got his trade union background that could help in any election.

For the electoral college that decides Labour’s leadership and deputy leadership is split three ways: MPs and MEPs; the affiliated trade unions; and the membership as a whole.

Quite how Johnson would convert his deputy ambitions with a leadership bid proper depends very much on the circumstances at the time. What this news does show is that he is ambitious and he’s sharp enough to get himself on the media agenda. The line his team is peddling about how he used to deliver the mail at Dorneywood is brilliant.

If there is going to be a contested election to replace Blair then Johnson is very well placed. Last month I backed him at 18/1 to replace Blair.

Mike Smithson

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