The ex-postman, union leader, Home Secretary and (for a brief period) Shadow Chancellor admits that politics was supposed to be a stopgap until he became a rock’n’roll star. Alan served as an MP for 20 years and has found further fame as an acclaimed author. With insights into policy making, life in Westminster and what’s going on in the corridors of power, after dinner he reveals how a last minute intervention saved the Prime Minister from an excruciatingly embarrassing acronym.
Orphaned at 12, Alan Johnson started his working life stacking shelves at Tesco. He then became a postman and union official before rising through the New Labour ranks to hold one of the great offices of state as Home Secretary. But despite his meteoric success he does still have one regret – that his early ambition to become a pop star will (probably) never come to fruition.
After serving as General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Alan entered Parliament in the 1997 landslide as MP for Hull West and Hessle. He soon climbed the junior ministerial ladder, with a series of portfolios from competitiveness and employment relations to higher and further education – despite having left school at the age of 15.
Seven years after entering parliament Alan was brought into Cabinet as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. In less than a year he was promoted to Trade and Industry and then Education and Skills, before Gordon Brown became Prime Minister and moved him to Health. He stayed at the helm of Labour’s flagship department for two years, before taking over from Jacqui Smith at the Home Office where he remained for the rest of the Labour term of office.
With such a wide range of government experience, Alan resonates with all manner of audiences. Aside from keynote presentations on related areas, he is also an adept and immensely engaging after dinner speaker. Along with tales of delivering the post in upmarket Buckinghamshire, he might well reveal how his last minute intervention saved the Prime Minister from rebranding the DTI. (Nobody else had spotted that the proposed name would inevitably result in it being known by an inappropriate acronym.)
Alan has served as a Director of Unity Trust Bank, on Labour’s National Executive Committee and on the Council of the TUC and of Ruskin College, Oxford. After 20 years as an MP, Alan stepped down from Parliamentary life, but remains an active voice in Labour politics, and on Brexit and electoral reform. He is a regular in the media, often appearing on the This Week sofa and even fronting his own programme on Radio 4, Alan Johnson: Failed Rock Star. His moving, entertaining and passionate memoir This Boy won the prestigious Orwell Prize for non-fiction, and its sequels Please, Mr Postman and The Long and Winding Road were equally acclaimed.
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