Former home secretary Alan Johnson names his ‘Brexit island disc’ ahead of Portsmouth visit

‘HELP! I need somebody, help not just anybody, help you know I need someone – help’.

Wednesday, 13th February 2019, 9:03 am
Updated Monday, 18th February 2019, 10:02 am
Alan Johnson, former Labour MP and ex-home secretary, looks on during a visit to a pro-EU company, Pollards Printers with the the Labour IN for Britain campaign battle bus on June 2, 2016 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

This is the opening verse to the Beatles’ aptly-named 1965 classic, Help!.

But in the eyes of former home secretary Alan Johnson, it should be the soundtrack for a Britain on the cusp of a Brexit ‘crisis’.

‘This is the worst crisis we have ever faced in peacetime Britain,’ the retired Labour politician told The News. ‘If I could describe it with a song it would have to be “Help!” by the Beatles.’

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Alan Johnson, former Labour MP and ex-home secretary, looks on during a visit to a pro-EU company, Pollards Printers with the the Labour IN for Britain campaign battle bus on June 2, 2016 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The veteran political figure was speaking out ahead of his visit to Portsmouth next month as part of the city’s BookFest, where the 68-year-old music-lover will talk about his latest book, My Life – a Music Memoir.

Mr Johnson warned it would be a disaster if Britain crashed out of the European Union next month without a deal.

The Labour veteran also urged people in Portsmouth to be weary of allowing MPs to push through a no-deal agenda, saying the nation was ‘not equipped’ to handle such a divorce with the European Union.

His comments came as prime minister Theresa May faced a grilling by MPs in the House of Commons over her progress in Brussels, where she has been pleading with EU chiefs to back amendments to her deal so it can pass through parliament.

Mrs May called for the nation to ‘hold its nerve’ as it approaches the deadline of March 29 and promised MPs a final, decisive vote on her Brexit deal with the EU.

But she said this wouldn’t be until she had secured changes to the Irish backstop clause, which has been a major sticking point throughout the negotiation process.

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the PM of ‘recklessly running down the clock’ in a bid to ‘blackmail’ MPs into backing her deal.

Mr Johnson – who admitted he ‘wasn’t the biggest fan’ of Mr Corbyn – said he feared the nation was ‘not equipped at all’ to protect its borders in the event of a no-deal Brexit and urged investment be pumped into bolstering the UK Border Force.

He also took a potshot at Tory-led austerity measures which have seen ‘30,000 coppers taken off the street’ since 2010.

‘What has happened to the police has been an absolute disgrace and a scandal and I don’t think it has been sufficiently addressed by the Labour Party,’ he added.

Mr Johnson will be visiting Portsmouth on Thursday, March 7, speaking about his fourth book at the University of Portsmouth’s Eldon Building.

The book follows Mr Johnson’s love of music from 1957 to 1982, revealing what his life was like as the guitarist in two rock bands before he entered the world of politics.

The talk begins at 7pm. Tickets are £5 and are available at pompeybookfest.eventbrite.co.uk or in any Portsmouth City Council library.