Johnson clears way for Miliband leadership bid

Health secretary Alan Johnson has cleared the way for his younger colleague David Miliband to launch a leadership bid.

Mr Johnson, widely liked in the party and considered by many to be the only figure capable of wrecking a Miliband ticket, gave strong indications he would not stand in the way of the foreign secretary when the time comes.

By ruling himself out of standing, the doors are open to a ‘dream ticket’ of Johnson and Miliband.

Praising Mr Miliband as “a real talent”, Mr Johnson said: “I think David has a great future in the party”.

But Mr Johnson provoked outrage in Downing Street when he went on to describe how Mr Brown had promised to only serve one term as prime minister, a claim instantly discounted by Number 10.

“Gordon Brown has said that if elected he would serve for one term, and when Gordon Brown has decided his one term is over , or when he has decided to step down, then we will have a discussion,” Mr Johnson said.

That statement marks the most outspoken moment of Mr Johnson’s thoughts during Labour’s current leadership crisis.

It was followed today by comments from local communities secretary Hazel Blears, saying Mr Brown lacked “emotional intelligence”.

“When people think about Gordon, it might be that he’s a bit serious and dour – but experienced,” she said in an interview with the Independent on Sunday.

“People make their political decisions not just rationally but emotionally as well and I think our government needs to be more emotionally intelligent, and the bit that Cameron has got is the language.”

Political observers have been keeping one eye on the local communities secretary following the glut of rebellious briefings and letters last weekend. Most of the Labour rebels – although not David Cairns, the Scottish Office minister forced to resign – were supporters of Ms Blear’s deputy leadership campaign.