Labour blow as Johnson quits front bench

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The Labour party was left reeling yesterday following the shock resignation of Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson.  Mr Johnson announced his resignation from Ed Miliband’s frontbench team, citing “personal” reasons and was immediately replaced by Ed Balls.

The loss of the second in command from his shadow cabinet is a severe blow to Ed Miliband who has faced mounting criticism from within his own party over his leadership style.

Alan Johnson was a surprise choice as shadow chancellor when Mr Miliband first announced his fresh frontline team, with many forecasting the role would go to Ed Balls or Yvette Cooper.

Mr Johnson’s resignation comes after just three and a half months in the job and follows several high profile gaffes when discussing tax and economic matters, including appearing not to know the rate of National Insurance.

The MP for Hull West said: “I have decided to resign from the shadow cabinet for personal reasons to do with my family.

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

“My time in Parliament will now be dedicated to serving my constituents and supporting the Labour Party. I will make no further comment about this matter.”

Conservative deputy chairman Michael Fallon said: “Alan Johnson is a good man and I wish him well. But what really beggars belief is the appointment of Ed Balls …

“He was Gordon Brown’s first lieutenant … [They] brought the government to the brink of bankruptcy.”

The resignation comes on the eve of a visit to Scotland by the Labour leader and will surely overshadow that event.  Rumours about Mr Johnson’s marriage and an affair with a civil servant are reported to be spreading around Westminster and sensational newspaper headlines are being predicted.