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Best Prime Minister We Never Had

John Rentoul

alan johnson 175043t 220x300 Best Prime Minister We Never HadWho was the best prime minister we never had? I compiled a Top 10 of candidates last month, but didn’t get round to finishing this post to go with it.

I suffer from a triple bias, but my answer is Alan Johnson. The first bias is towards the recent. So recent is Johnson’s non-premiership that he could be prime minister now if, in January 2010, he had did what Kevin Rudd has just done in Australia.

My second bias is that I am a Blairite, and Johnson was in some ways the perfect candidate to follow Blair and take his approach in the new directions that only a working-class hero could achieve. New Labour with a working-class accent would have got rid of a lot of the nonsense that clung to the later Blair about New Labour as an elite politics associated with big business and the rich.

My third bias is that I like and admire Johnson and felt vindicated when his memoir of his childhood of deep poverty in Notting Hill in the 1950s, This Boy, turned out to be about as good as it was possible for it to be. I knew the chapter headings of his life story already, and knew how affecting it was as a political metaphor, but there is always a fear when you have seen the trailer that the finished work will disappoint. Literary merit is no qualification for the office of prime minister, but it doesn’t half inspire confidence in the writer’s other qualities.

Thus most of my Top 10 were possible prime ministers in my adult life, but I also included Evan Durbin and Joe Chamberlain.

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  • reformist lickspittle

    Oh, you misunderstand me (not for the first time, I suspect)

    I have no problems with what Ed is proposing re the unions (but you may have noticed, not all unions do either) The fact remains, he treats trade unionists with respect – and whether you agree with his post-Falkirk stance or not, he quite genuinely sees it as a way of *strengthening* the party-union relationship, rather than the divorce some neo-Blairites continue to want.

    And we shouldn’t forget, also, that unions were often a voice for moderation and sanity in internal party matters. Absolutely no reason why that can’t be the case again.

  • mightymark

    Er … good! And your final para. pretty much repeats mine above re Chapple and Bevin etc.

    I think the problem for what you call the “neo Blairites” is that they see a great deal of scope both in terms of public economy and responsiveness to public demand in public sector reforrm. Given the concentration of union membership in the public sector and the inevitable defensiveness of unions in regard to such reform what the “neo Blairites” (in what sense “neo” by the way?) presumably fear is the negative impact of a large part of the party to such reforms EVEN IF such reform is the only way public services can realistically be kept public and so stop the other lot from venturing out to full scale privatisation.

    This might be less of a problem were there still substantial numbers of T.U.ists in the private sector – but there aren’t.

  • Junius

    Good grief – three days in moderation for a metaphor-mixing quote that has passed into political lore. And no political post since Monday. Is it any wonder that virtual tumbleweed is blowing through these blogs? All they are fit for is How-we-love-our-doggies stuff and One Direction online fanzines.

  • Martina Weitsch

    Interesting list; lots of those missing have already been mentioned below. But for me, Barbara Castle must be the one that tops any such list.

  • mightymark

    With or without “In Place of Strife”?

  • http://hesspartacus.tumblr.com/ He’s Spartacus

    So far?

    Nigel Farage, by a country mile.

  • http://hesspartacus.tumblr.com/ He’s Spartacus

    Quite apart from his membership of the criminal Blair Tyranny, which alone should see Johnson behind bars, any Member of Parliament who believes that there should, in the name of “security”, be some kind of compromise between what is unlawful and the rule of law, has no business polishing the benches of the House of Commons, back or front, with his elephantine posterior.

    Or speaking out of it, for that matter.

  • mightymark

    “……..any Member of Parliament who believes that there should, in the name of “security”, be some kind of compromise between what is unlawful and the rule of law, has no business polishing the benches of the House of Commons”

    In internal UK affairs I couldn’t agree more. – there are judges, police and the whole panoply of law enforcement which while it might fall short of being fully effective should not be undermined by people thinking they can treat it with disdain or take the law into their own hands.

    Internationally however the same enforcement mechanisms do not exist and what there is is obviously not so effectual. So while the preference for staying within the law applies generally especially in matters like trade etc I am rather more liberal as to allowing for the compromise you refer to in military and diplomatic matters.


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