- The Guardian, Saturday 24 October 2009
Alan Johnson, 59, was born in London. He left school at 15, became a postman and joined the Union of Communication Workers. He rose to become general secretary in 1992. In 1997, he was elected Labour MP for Hull West & Hessle. In 1999, he became a minister at the Department of Trade and Industry and entered the cabinet in 2004 as secretary of state for work and pensions. He is now home secretary, his fifth cabinet position. He is married for the second time and has four children.
When were you happiest?
When my son was born in 2000.
What is your greatest fear?
Harm being done to my children.
What is your earliest memory?
In a gas-lit room before an iron stove, in the first house I lived in at Southam Street, Notting Hill.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
John Monks, an ego-free visionary who is kind and self-deprecating.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Wetting myself in class (in primary school, I should add).
What is your most treasured possession?
The 45rpm single that I cut with the Area.
What makes you unhappy?
Queens Park Rangers losing (I am unhappy a lot).
Who would play you in the film of your life?
George Clooney, but he'd have to smarten up a bit.
What has been your biggest disappointment?
Not to have been a rock'n'roll star.
What is your favourite word?
What is the worst thing anyone's ever said to you?
"Are you a Chelsea supporter?"
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Listening to Dire Straits.
What do you owe your parents?
My mother, aspiration.
What is the worst job you have ever done?
Filling up cans of paraffin from a tanker on cold winter evenings.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To 30s south London, to see my house newly built and the Crystal Palace before it burned down.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Helping the British Fishermen's Association secure their claim for compensation, 25 years after distant water trawlermen had their industry destroyed by the agreement that the government reached with Iceland to end the so-called Cod Wars.
What keeps you awake at night?
What song would you like played at your funeral?
Only The Good Die Young – Billy Joel.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To thine own self be true.
Tell us a joke.
A man applying for a job as a blacksmith is asked, "Have you ever shoed a horse?" "No," he answers, "but I once told a pig to piss off."