Alan Johnson MP: From poverty to high office

Lynn Courtney interviews Alan Johnson MP
Lynn Courtney interviews Alan Johnson MP Photo: ITV News Wales

Alan Johnson's book 'This Boy' tells of his childhood in the East End of London in the 1950s - but it's more than that.

It's the story of how his mother Lily, a strong-minded Liverpudlian, managed to steer the family away from the rocks of dire poverty, hunger and lack of hard cash after separating from Alan's father Steve.

It is also the story of how his sister Linda was a tower of strength through the bad times.

Alan, growing up, had three main aspirations. He wanted to write, he wanted to be a footballer and he wanted to be a rock star.

Picking his way through the austerity of pre-gentrified Notting Hill, music was a solace. He managed to scrape together a small record collection, thanks to earning a few bob on a milk round. He loved Elvis, Billy Fury and the like - but his life was completely turned around with the arrival of The Beatles.

Alan Johnson served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010. Before that he filled a wide variety of cabinet positions in both the Blair and Brown Governments, including Health Secretary and Education Secretary. Until January 2010 he was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I asked him what positive experiences had he taken from his youth that he brought to bear in these top level roles. The answer was simple: He's a politician that listens. A rare breed indeed.