Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Alan Johnson MP

Monday 2nd

Up early and off to the RSA to hear the Home Secretary’s speech “Security in the 21st Century: Global, National, Local”

It is likely to be an interesting morning for Alan Johnson following his sacking last week of the Chair of his Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs. The press and tv are camped in John Adam Street and inside a packed house is waiting to hear him.

The word is that Johnson has been doing the rounds of broadcast studios since early morning, defending his move on the drugs chief. Another drugs advisor has resigned over the weekend and more are rumored to be considering their positions.

Mathew Taylor, Chief Exec of the RSA who is hosting the event, appears at 9.35 to apologize for the delayed start: "I’m told he is just one minute away".

At 9.45 Matthew returns: “He is now five minutes away; he’s been taking scientific advice on his journey timing”

When he finally arrives Johnson makes a good speech, his first major speech on immigration. He seems clearly at ease with his brief, and surprises us with his admission of government failings. He seems to get a good reception in the papers this morning.

Alan Johnson coupled his admission yesterday of having done too little to tackle Britain’s immigration crisis with criticism for some of his predecessors for having ignored the problem. He conceded that Labour had not handled immigration problems well. The Times.

Some parts of the country have been "disproportionately affected" by the influx of migrants …. his predecessors had ignored for "far too long" problems in the system that led to huge backlogs of asylum seekers and foreign national prisoners …… Labour, as well as previous Governments, had been "maladroit" in their handling of the immigration issue. The Telegraph

Most interesting, given the extensive new powers sought by Blair and Brown, and the fiasco of the 90-day detention row: The home secretary also conceded that some of the counter-terrorism proposals made after the 7 July 2005 bombings were "too draconian" and "not the right way to go". The Guardian

Alan Johnson is the 4th Home Secretary in 5 years.

The late arrival meant that there was little time for a detailed response from Professor Michael Clarke and only three questions from the audience. I was hoping to ask Alan Johnson, the former General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, what advice he would give to his former union members, and his government colleagues, on their respective handling of the current long-running strike at Royal Mail. Given his openness and frankness it would have been useful to hear his views.

Later, I wondered about the future: might Alan Johnson be the next leader of the Labour party? How will he perform when in opposition? Is he a future PM?

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