EXCL Labour figures slam Alan Johnson over referendum campaign

Posted On: 
14th June 2016

Senior Labour figures have accused Alan Johnson of not doing enough to persuade the party's traditional supporters to reject Brexit.

Alan Johnson is leading the Labour In campaign
Credit: 
PA Images

The concerns about his performance as head of the Labour In For Britain campaign came amid increasing evidence that working class voters are switching from Remain to Leave.

Former Cabinet minister Mr Johnson was appointed to the role a year ago by then interim Labour leader Harriet Harman.

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At the time, she said: "There’s no better person than Alan to argue for Britain to remain in a reformed EU in a persuasive way."

But one Shadow Cabinet member told PoliticsHome: "Alan has been nowhere in the campaign - it looks like he's been more interested in selling copies of his book.

"The problem is he was given the job by Harriet with no one else having any say whatsoever."

UNFAIR

Research by Loughborough University showed that Mr Johnson made just 14 media appearances between 6 May and 8 June - compared to David Cameron's 357 and Boris Johnson's 275.

One Labour MP admitted the ex-Home Secretary had been "anonymous" during the campaign, but he added: "I think a lot of that has been down to the fact that the broadcasters have been focusing on the Tory civil war.

"It's unfair to blame him. What the referendum has shown is that Labour's problems are much bigger and fundamental than AJ's role in the campaign and have absolutely nothing to do with him."

Labour spokeswoman said the claims that Mr Johnson had not worked hard enough during the campaign were "totally untrue".

"The Labour In bus has been to nearly 90 places and Alan has been a regular on broadcast interviews," she said.

Labour voters are seen as key to delivering a Remain vote on 23 June. But a poll two weeks ago suggested half of them did not know where the party stood on the EU.

Party bosses have stepped up their efforts to win them over this week, with high-profile interventions by Jeremy Corbyn and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

IMMIGRATION

Appearing on Radio Four's Today programme this morning, Mr Johnson also dismissed suggestions that Labour have ignored the issue of immigration - seen as the main area of concern for working class voters.

He said: "We’ve talked about immigration all the way through this. Sometimes people haven’t been listening to us, but the argument we’re making is, look, there’s three types of immigration: there’s immigration from outside the EU, there’s illegal immigration, and there’s free movement. Of those, free movement gives us the benefit of the single market.

“Our argument is remaining part of the single market helps us to control the other two forms of immigration. If we leave, the situation is going to be worse. We won’t be protected by the Dublin Accord. If anyone believes that our UK border in Calais is going to survive us leaving the EU then once again they’re in the realms of fantasy. Of course it won’t, that will make the issue much worse."