Thought politics was going to be sane in 2020? Meet Masked Singer Alan Johnson

Written by John Johnston on 6 January 2020 in Diary

Start as you mean to go on. With total and utter bewilderment.

After a few tumultuous years there was a fleeting hope that British politics might calm down just a bit as the new decade begins. But thanks to Alan Johnson that has all been flushed down the drain within days.

There was a time when former cabinet ministers would do the decent thing and slip quietly into the backstage of British cultural life. Perhaps knock out a few volumes of your diaries, or, if you must, put in an appearance on a charity quiz show.  

Until 2015 the only time you'd see an ex-MP on a reality TV show was if they'd been hoofed out by scandal and hoped embarassing themselves on primetime would give them a opportunity to reinvent their career. Think George Galloway's "shall I be the cat", or Lembit Opik's bushtucker trials.

How fondly we will look back on those days.

As a former Home Secretary, Health Secretary and Education Secretary, Alan Johnson had led an exemplary retirement. He'd churned out three memoirs, with the first winning the esteemed Orwell prize for political writing. He led the Labour campaign for Remaining in the EU, and he was a regular guest on the BBC's This Week programme.

But last night, this former senior cabinet minister plumbed new depths with an utterly cringing appearance on ITV's latest wheeze, the Masked Singer.

The premise is simple enough. C-List celebrities sing and dance to karaoke hits while dressed in costumes designed to hide their appearance. If they are voted off by the audience and judges then they must reveal their identity. Part of the appeal of the show is guessing who might be under the outfits, which made Alan Johnson's appearance all the more baffling.

Judges, including Jonathan Ross, pop star Rita Ora and American actor Ken Jeong were given hints to the performer's profession, prompting them to guess that semi-household names such as Vince Cable, Ed Balls or even Ann Widdecombe might be prancing around on stage dressed as a Pharaoh.

So imagine their utter bewilderment when 69-year-old Alan Johnson, largely unknown outside of Westminster, was revealed as the covert crooner.



His embarassment was compounded as Jonathan Ross was forced to explain who the ex-MP was to the rest of his colleagues.

Rita Ora made a good effort of pretending to be shocked that a former cabinet minister had decided to put himself forward for the national humiliation.

Probably not as shocked as the rest of us.

Responding after being the second 'celebrity' to be voted off, he said he'd chosen to go on the show because it was "so weird and wacky".

You can say that again.

The countdown is now on for the next cringing reality TV appearance from a former senior cabinet figure.

John Prescott on Naked Attraction, perhaps? Or Theresa and Philip May on Celebrity Coach Trip? 

Welcome to the 20's.

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