Key UK opposition figure quits for 'family reasons'

20th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The finance spokesman for Britain's opposition Labour party, Alan Johnson, stepped down Thursday citing personal reasons, just three months after being appointed to the post as an economic novice.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he had accepted Johnson's resignation with "regret" and announced that he would be replaced by Ed Balls, the current home affairs spokesman.

"I have decided to resign from the Shadow Cabinet for personal reasons to do with my family," Johnson said in a statement.

"I have found it difficult to cope with these personal issues in my private life whilst carrying out an important frontbench role."

Johnson was appointed in October having no finance background, and one of his first comments was to joke that he would have to buy an economics primer -- a remark his opponents later flung back in his face.

He made a string of subsequent gaffes including being unable to tell a television interviewer what the rate of national insurance was.

Miliband denied it had been a mistake to appoint Johnson, telling the BBC that the former interior minister was stepping down for "deeply personal reasons" and that his resignation had "nothing to do with the job."

Johnson was widely seen as a centrist influence and a true working class Labour figure, having been a postman for 19 years and then worked his way up through trade unions and the party rank and file.

A Labour party spokesman denied that a Sunday newspaper was about to publish details about Johnson's private life -- a situation which has sparked several resignations in British political life over the years.

© 2011 AFP

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