I’ve just finished reading Alan Johnson’s book about his childhood up to the age of eighteen. Alan Johnson is a Labour MP who held senior cabinet positions in the last government, including Home Secretary. He was born and brought up in Notting Hill in West London in the 1950s.
Nowadays Notting Hill is home to several senior politicians, and indeed David Cameron had a house there prior to becoming prime minister. An average family home there would probably set you back around £5 million so people understandably think of Notting Hill as a very well-to-do area. What many people won’t realise is that 60 years ago the area was a slum. Johnson lived in abject poverty with very little support from a feckless father who abandoned the family. Living conditions were apalling by modern standards, with damp rooms, no heating, no proper sanitation and shared cooking facilities. His mother, who battled constantly against ill-health, worked at several jobs to scrape together enough to feed him and his older sister.
Despite the sadness, the story is ultimately about love and perseverance in the face of adversity.
Given the choice between a prime minister who lived in Notting Hill in the 1950s and one who lived there in 2010 I know which one I’d choose.
Alan Johnson - perhaps the best prime minister we never had.