Do women think Johnson’s got the Cameron-style X-Factor?

Do women think Johnson’s got the Cameron-style X-Factor?


    How female writers are leading the way for the Education Secretary

In June 2005 one of first indications that David Cameron was going to get a huge media boost came when women writers began producing extraordinarily favourable columns and profiles about the then relatively unknown 39 year old. Just read again what Vicki Woods wrote in the Spectator after reading a piece on Cameron’s leadership campaign on PBC.

    The Woods “Cameron love-in” continued and reached its peak with a Telegraph article under the heading “Politics is like sex – so pick David Cameron.”

We are now seeing the same pattern with Alan Johnson. This was from Rachel Cooke’s highly flattering profile in the Observer on Sunday. “…also, he is extremely attractive. Seriously. I know that in pictures he might look like a provincial butcher made good, all rosy cheeks and sharp suits. But in person, he just … well, he’s definitely got something. It is almost impossible not to flirt with him.”

I’ve been amazed this week by the number of people who’ve talked to me about this piece. It seems to have struck a chord, particularly with women, and the enthusiasm that it has engendered for Johnson is quite telling.

The bandwagon for the former postman amongst women journalists continued yesterday with Alice Miles in the Times writing “…Mr Johnson’s “back story” gets more extraordinarily compelling the more one hears about it: his father walked out when he was 9, his mother died three years later, and his 15-year-old sister persuaded the welfare officer to let her bring up Alan on her own from then on, and amazingly they were given a council flat, the first home where they had ever had a bathroom…..Mr Johnson is good-looking, smooth, charming and doesn’t seem to have an enemy in the world, which for someone who pushed one member one vote (Omov) through the postal workers union and university tuition fees through the Labour Party is pretty amazing.

All of this, I believe, is setting the scene for what would happen if Johnson did decide to go for it. Undoubtedly he would get the same sort of treatment that Cameron experienced during those crucial weeks last November when Tory members were voting on who should succeed Michael Howard.

Everybody tells me that somehow the Labour party will be different. In some way, it is argued, it will be immune from Cameron-style media coverage. Don’t believe it. The ordinary Labour members and the million trade unionists entitled to vote will be highly influenced by the reporting – after all they chose Blair last time.

    They want a winner to take on the Tories and if that is how the press is presenting Johnson the former postman will stand a good chance.

I’ve now adjusted my personal betting again and am putting more on Johnson. If he decided to run and if he can get the necessary 44 fellow Labour MPs to sign his nomination then he must have a 50-50 chance of doing it.

Latest leadership betting is here.

Mike Smithson

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