Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Profile

Can the ex-postman deliver?

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 12 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:71
  1. Nicholas Timmins, public policy editor
  1. Financial Times, London
  1. Nick.Timmins{at}

    Alan Johnson has come a long way since his years delivering letters. Nicholas Timmins examines his career and asks whether he can deliver NHS reform

    Alan Johnson arrives as secretary of state for health charged with pouring oil on troubled waters. How far the current beneath them will continue to flow in the direction of Tony Blair's market-style reforms to the National Health Service—with choice, competition, and the private sector being seen as the key to improving services—remains to be seen.

    The 57 year old former postman and trade union leader brings an easy style and a fine line in self-deprecation to the job. He has a reputation for being a Blairite who also gets on with Gordon Brown, although the new prime minister has given him what may seem to be a somewhat thankless task.

    General secretary of the Communication Workers Union at the age of 42, he was about the only trade union leader publicly to back the dumping of Labour's clause IV—which committed the party to nationalisation—during Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's construction of New Labour ahead of the 1997 general election.

    Rapid rise

    Entering parliament as a Hull MP that year, he instantly acquired the most junior of government …

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