The former Health Secretary and Remain campaign leader on electoral reform, what the Tories got wrong on Europe—and why Momentum should disbandby Stephanie Boland / June 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
Alan Johnson is midway through talking about the European Union when he says the magic words: “I don’t have to cater to a constituency anymore.” We’re deep in a warren of corridors within Westminster’s Methodist Central Hall, in an otherwise empty room lined with chairs. One table holds a small stack of mugs, and a coffee urn. It is not clear whether the urn has coffee in, or whether the room—which has the air of school classroom when all of the children have gone home—is where we are meant to be conducting our interview, at all. Like I said: the building is a warren.
The metaphor, I hope, writes itself. When I sit down with Johnson, he is just about to give the Prospect and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s fourth annual poverty lecture. More importantly, it is less than a week after a general election which saw political truisms across the house dissolve, to be replaced by a still-uncertain set of new rules and structures. Against expectations—not least those of his team—Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour have gained 32 seats. Meanwhile, the Tories, having called the election with a 20 point lead, ended up with 42 per cent of the national vote to Labour’s 39. “I don’t think anyone will be recovered in terms of making sense of what’s going on,” Johnson muses. He is ready to make a judgement on one thing, however: “The person who lost is Theresa May. Big time.”