In a painful echo of TV’s
Bodyguard, his wife had an affair with his protection of icer. Then Alan Johnson lost his job at the Home Of ice...
obody knows the pressure of being Home Secretary better than Alan Johnson, whose wife had an affair with their close protection officer while he was in the job. So the Labour heavyweight turned award-winning writer has been watching the BBC’s Sundaynight drama Bodyguard, starring Keeley Hawes, more suspiciously than most.
‘They got the pressure of the job right. She’s always in the back of her car doing paperwork, she’s always got a box there, it’s unrelenting. When you’re a minister, you’ve got that red box every night. The whole civil service works towards giving you five hours of work to take home with you at whatever bloody time you leave Parliament, which is often ten o’clock at night.’
‘I think they got hold of someone who has some idea of how the Home Office works – but only some idea. There are glaring anomalies.’ Such as? ‘There’s only so much you can say when you know all the state secrets! A simple one: he’s still following her around in the Houses of Parliament. That’s a safe space, you don’t need your bodyguard to stand at the door of your office. But I know if you’re going to make a story out of it you can’t have him waiting outside all day, he’s got to be on the scene.’
Bodyguard has captured the biggest ratings for a drama series for more than a decade – but when we meet, Johnson has not yet seen the scenes that will surely make him squirm the most. The Home Secretary Julia Montague gets very close and personal indeed with her close 12 protection officer David Budd (Richard Madden). That must make him wince, because the parallels with real life are uncanny: Alan Johnson was Home Secretary under Gordon Brown in 2009 when his wife Laura began an affair with his personal bodyguard, Paul Rice.
Just like in Bodyguard, Rice, 45, became the new Home Secretary’s close protection officer in the wake of his own marital breakdown, while he was living apart from his wife and child. A police inquiry into how an officer acting as close protection to the Home Secretary had an affair with the Home Secretary’s wife heard that he and Mrs Johnson, 47, arranged to meet in secret when he was off duty.
Alan Johnson kept silent when it came to light in 2010 (and refuses to discuss it today) but his sister Linda said at the time: ‘I know he will be absolutely devastated.’
The betrayal was shattering because even more it emerged after Labour lost the election and Johnson lost the big job at the Home Office – and he reveals for the first time today that he had a burnout in the midst of it all.
‘As soon as the electorate decided to dispense with our services I had a midlife crisis kind of thing. I’d just turned 60. I went out and bought myself a convertible! I needed a new car. Black Astra Sport. And I went to a music shop not far from the Houses of Parliament and bought myself a Yamaha acoustic
Left: Alan Johnson with ex-wife Laura at the 1997 general election. Below, left: PC Paul Rice, Johnson’s former close protection officer. Below: TV’s Bodyguard, with Keeley Hawes as the Home Secretary and Richard Madden as her security officer