I have to admit that when I first found out that Alan Johnson had been chosen by Ed Miliband as his Shadow Chancellor, I was more than a little disappointed. I had voted for Ed because he seemed like a guy who would be bold, and nothing could have been bolder than appointing Yvette Cooper as the first female shadow Chancellor.

On reflection, however, I think I may have been a little unfair. His choice, it seems to me, displays not just tactical cleverness but also strategic acumen. Alan Johnson is a popular guy, not just in the party but also among the electorate, and appointing him sends a clear signal that Ed Miliband is determined to deal, first and foremost, with the inevitable Tory attempt to brand him as ‘Red Ed’. Ed Balls, even Yvette Cooper, his wife, would have been grist to that particular mill given Balls’ opposition to Alistair Darling’s slower deficit reduction plan, never mind the Chancellor’s (I happen to think Balls is right, but there you go). Johnson, a ‘Blairite’ in the political journalist’s lexicon, confronts the charge head-on and neutralizes it.

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