Alan Johnson

Alan Johnson on winning the Orwell book prize: ‘I thought I was writing something people would appreciate’ by Mark Lawson

Alan Johnson

Former home secretary Alan Johnson is that rare thing: a genuinely popular Westminster figure. This week he won two major awards for his first memoir, and there’s more to come.

The dominant sound on the tape of my interview with Alan Johnson is his laugh. This loud rattle has always been part of his personality, encouraging the popular view that he is a rare human among the aliens on Planet Westminster – but was perhaps surprising as we were talking on Thursday morning, with the political establishment braced for a Ukip surge in local and European polls that injects further uncertainty into the outcome of next year’s general election.

Johnson, though, can be excused his high good humour. At 64 and in the declining phase of his legislative career, the Labour member for Hull West and Hessle had just won two literary prizes in three days – the £3,000 Orwell prize following the £10,000 Ondaatje prize – for his first book.

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