Pair contacted Johnson over ‘plot’


Published: Saturday 7th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Alan Johnson was contacted by two senior Labour figures at the height of speculation he was being lined up by plotters to replace Ed Miliband in an internal coup.

But both former cabinet minister Lord Mandelson and ex-Tony Blair media chief Alastair Campbell insisted they had not encouraged the former cabinet minister to join any effort to oust the party leader.

Rumours swept Westminster in November that critics were actively preparing a challenge and hoped to persuade Mr Johnson – Mr Miliband’s shadow chancellor until he stepped down for personal reasons – to take the reins.

Mr Miliband was forced to insist he would not “buckle under the pressure”, quipping that he had learned the meaning of the phrase ” what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

The Financial Times said it had learned that New Labour grandees Lord Mandelson and Mr Campbell “t ook soundings from Johnson to see whether he was prepared to take over”.

A spokesman for Mr Campbell insisted he had not been involved in any bid to depose the leader and that such an allegation had probably been made by ” one of the plotters”.

“When the frenzy was going on and people were saying Alan was going for it, he (Mr Campbell) called and asked him if it was true. He was emphatic he was not and that was that,” he said.

Lord Mandelson insisted he did not “probe, let alone encourage” Mr Johnson.

He said: “As he is a good friend of mine we talked about the press frenzy going on at the time and he said it was all nonsense. End of conversation, end of story.”

A Labour source said: “Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell phoned Alan Johnson to ask if the rumours were correct. They found out they were false.”

Speculation over threats to Mr Miliband’s leadership re-emerged as a Labour peer stepped in to defend him against attacks by senior business figures, suggesting they should be more fearful of the Tories forcing Britain out of the European Union.

Lord Levy, formerly Mr Blair’s chief fundraiser who helped New Labour form close ties with business, said he was “saddened” by the attacks on Mr Miliband.

His comments came after the co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, who signed a letter supporting Labour when Mr Blair was leader, said he was “frightened” by the idea of the party taking power after May’s general election.

Sir Charles Dunstone, who was one of 63 signatories to a letter of support for Labour in 2005, told the FT the business community felt “isolated” by Labour’s shift to the left.

Published: Saturday 7th February 2015 by The News Editor

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