Johnson plays down leadership contest

Alan Johnson has welcomed the prospect of John Reid standing for the Labour leadership but has insisted that a high level contest was “not a necessity”.

The education secretary, who has announced that he plans to stand for the party’s deputy leadership, told the BBC that “there’s a view in some places in the media, you know, that in all circumstances there has to be a contest”.

“There only has to be a contest if somebody, like John, decides that they want to stand. You don’t gerrymander this; you don’t produce a contest just for the sake of having a contest,” he said.

Mr Johnson said that, despite having clearly stated his support for chancellor Gordon Brown as the next leader of the Labour party, “I am neither a Brownite nor a Blairite. I don’t follow the cult of the personality”.

He said: “I certainly think that when the leadership changes and it’s been a brilliant leadership of Tony Blair and John Prescott, we need to be in a new era with and certainly if it is a Brown-led party, we need to bring in people with all the talents.”

He illustrated the trend of younger talent coming in to the party, such as Yvette Cooper and David Miliband.

Mr Johnson, the former trade and industry secretary, insisted that the leader will “be a matter for the party to decide” but proceeded to rule himself out, adding that he “would fully expect” to vote for Mr Brown in the leadership contest.