Melanie Johnson

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Melanie Johnson
Johnson in March 2009
Minister of State for Public Health
In office
13 June 2003 – 10 May 2005
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byDavid Lammy
Succeeded byCaroline Flint
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competition and Consumer Affairs
In office
8 June 2001 – 13 June 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byKim Howells
Succeeded byNigel Griffiths
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
In office
17 May 1999 – 8 June 2001
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byPatricia Hewitt
Succeeded byRuth Kelly
Member of Parliament
for Welwyn Hatfield
In office
1 May 1997 – 11 April 2005
Preceded byDavid Evans
Succeeded byGrant Shapps
Personal details
Melanie Jane Johnson

(1955-02-05) 5 February 1955 (age 68)
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Political partyLabour
Alma materUniversity College London, King's College, Cambridge

Melanie Jane Johnson (born 5 February 1955) is a Labour politician in the United Kingdom.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born in Ipswich. She attended the Independent Clifton High School in Clifton, Bristol. Leaving Bristol for London, she studied at University College London, gaining a BA in Philosophy and Ancient Greek (1976). Following this she moved to Cambridge, continuing to study Philosophy at postgraduate level at King's College, Cambridge. From the age of 19 onwards she was an active member of the Labour Party and for over a decade was a County Councillor. From 1981 to 1988, she was Member Relations Officer for Cambridge Co-op, then Retail Administration Manager from 1988 to 1990. She was Assistant General Manager in Quality Assurance for Cambridge Family Health Service Authority from 1990 to 1992. Johnson was a schools inspector for Ofsted from 1993 to 1997.[1][2]

Parliamentary career[edit]

In 1994 Johnson unsuccessfully stood for Labour in the Cambridgeshire seat at the European Parliamentary election.[3] Two years later she was selected to stand for Labour in the United Kingdom Parliament through an all-women shortlist.[4]

She was first elected in the 1997 election overturning a majority of 6,583. Johnson won her seat, Welwyn Hatfield, following a statement made by her opponent, David Evans, which made national newspaper headlines. Evans was taped by sixth-form students (at Stanborough School, Welwyn Garden City) denouncing Johnson as "a single girl, lives with her boyfriend, three bastard children" and saying she had "never done a proper job".[5] At this time Johnson was working as a school inspector and living with her partner of 18 years, raising their young family. In this taped statement Evans claimed Johnson did not "have a chance in hell". Evans also criticised her for living in Cambridge rather than actually in his then constituency.[6]

In her maiden speech Johnson commented that Evans was" widely renowned for his plain speaking" but could be "personally very charming. I saw that for myself on election night when he congratulated me on my victory in Welwyn Hatfield and recorded how much he had enjoyed being a Member of Parliament". She further commented "I am a firm believer in diversity and my own style will be a little different from his. As a mother of three, I can assure the House that my children will help to keep my feet on the ground."[7]

Johnson was re-elected in the 2001 elections with a reduced majority. Welwyn Hatfield had never previously been held for more than one term by a Labour MP.

From 1999 to 2005 Johnson was a junior minister serving first as Economic Secretary to the Treasury, next in the DTI as Minister for Competition and Consumers, and finally as Minister for Public Health in the Department of Health. Johnson was also responsible for the White Paper Building Trust in Statistics [8] As Economic Secretary she supported the EU action against money laundering stating "Money laundering is a very serious offence, with the capacity to undermine financial markets and to corrupt professional advisers"[9] Following the 2000 Budget Johnson, whilst speaking to NPI Conference, commented "in the Budget three weeks ago now, this Government took the next steps towards our ambition for a Britain of opportunity and security not just for a few but for all, with prosperity reaching the people and places the economy has too long forgotten.".[10] Journalist Benedict Brogan likened the delivery of her speeches to "the read-your-weight manner of a supermarket Tannoy" describing them as tedious and accusing her of just repeating "the mantra that had been programmed into her".[11]

During Johnson's time in DTI she gained media coverage for her concerns regarding "US regulators (having) the power to monitor, investigate and discipline UK auditors".[12] Johnson was also responsible for Government's Enterprise Bill, commenting that 'We will provide a robust regime for dealing with those who abuse their creditors.'[13]

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 Johnson became more vocal on the issue, stating "Breast cancer can happen to any woman, regardless of who she is. I am acutely aware it is something many women still do not believe will happen to them."[14] Cancer was later to become one of Johnson's responsibilities as Public Health Minister.

As Public Health Minister, her responsibilities included policy on smoking, obesity, drugs, alcohol, diet and nutrition,[15] communicable diseases, sexual health, sustainable development and health inequalities.[16][17] One of her key roles was to improve cervical smear testing, which she achieved in a move to get new better smear tests.[18] With the new test Johnson introduced, there were less false positives, meaning fewer women were now required to return for a second smear due to an error with their first test. Johnson additionally announced plans in 2004 to cut domestic violence during pregnancy with the integration of routine enquiries into antenatal appointments.[19]

Johnson campaigned to cut salt levels, setting targets to significantly reduce salt in foods in order to improve cardiovascular health.[20] She gained credit from "salt victims" who had suffered strokes supporting her work to make large companies reduce salt.[21] Johnson's campaign was echoed by Food watchdogs, whilst she pushed for large food companies to make specific action plans in order to reduce salt.[22]

In October 2003, Johnson was the subject of criticism when she was quoted as saying that fluoridation of water should be "the preferred method of preventing tooth decay on a population basis". Simon Thomas accused her of suggesting people should throw away their toothbrushes, Thomas stated the proposals were "crazy" and "full of contradictions".[23] Others such as Martyn Shrewsbury accused her of failing to consider the health risk of fluoride as well as the ethics of medicating people against their will.[24] Johnson later clarified her comments stating "we are not saying that people should stop brushing their teeth".[25]

Johnson was defeated in the 2005 general election by Grant Shapps on a 9.2% swing to the Conservatives.[26]

Post parliamentary work[edit]

In 2006 Johnson took the position of Deputy Chair on the Customer Impact Panel, an Association of British Insurers organisation dedicated to improving the customers' experience of the insurance industry.[27][28]

In 2009 Johnson was named Chair of the UK Cards Association,[29] a payments industry body, in which capacity she has attempted to have scientific research on credit card security withdrawn from public availability.[30]

She featured on the Labour's shortlist for the 2007 Sedgefield by-election but failed to be selected as candidate.[31][32] She also made the all-female longlist for the Walthamstow seat in 2008 but was less successful and did not make the shortlist.[33] In 2009 she made a third attempt at becoming a Labour parliamentary candidate by featuring on a controversial all-woman shortlist for the Erith and Thamesmead constituency.[34] The contest was taken over by the central Labour party as the local party was considered incapable of handling the process fairly, leading to complaints that non local candidates were being favoured.[35] Further controversy came when it was revealed one of the ballot boxes had been tampered with at Labour's head office.[36]

Personal life[edit]

She lives in Cambridge with her partner. They have twin daughters, and a son.[14][37]

In 2001 Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer.[38] Despite treatment for breast cancer, it was reported that Johnson was "expected to spend about 10 days recovering at home in her Welwyn and Hatfield constituency after the operation before returning to work before Christmas, the DTI said."[14] She later commented that she had been "very fortunate to make a full recovery" from breast cancer.[38]


  1. ^ "Vote2001: Candidates: Melanie Johnson". BBC News. 2001. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  2. ^ Mp, Labour (16 October 2002). "Melanie Johnson: Political Profile". BBC News. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  3. ^ "United Kingdom European Parliamentary Election results 1979-99: England". Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  4. ^ "The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Bill" (PDF). London, UK: United Kingdom Parliament. 22 October 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 November 2006. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  5. ^ Abrams, Fran (22 December 1997). "Maiden speeches that came top of the class". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  6. ^ "David Evans: Self-made millionaire and chairman of Luton Town who became an unashamedly outspoken Tory MP". The Independent. London: Independent News & Media. 27 October 2008. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  7. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (20 May 1997). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 20 May 1997 (pt 26)". Retrieved 18 April 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Building Trust In Statistics - White Paper". HM Treasury. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  9. ^ "Uk Calls For Tougher Eu Action Against Money Laundering". HM Treasury. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  10. ^ "Speech by Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Melanie Johnson MP, to the NPI conference on - "Tackling financial exclusion"". HM Treasury. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  11. ^ Kallenbach, Michael (23 June 2000). "Yesterday in Parliament". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  12. ^ Hirst, Clayton (23 February 2003). "DTI minister in plea to US - Business News, Business". The Independent. London. Retrieved 18 April 2009.[dead link]
  13. ^ Morgan, Oliver (15 July 2001). "DTI to back 'honest failure' | Business | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  14. ^ a b c Russell, Ben (25 October 2001). "Minister must undergo breast cancer operation". The Independent. London. Retrieved 4 February 2009.[dead link]
  15. ^ "Firms urged to cut salt in food". BBC. BBC News. 6 May 2004. Retrieved 4 February 2009. Nutrition and health is one aspect of people's lives where simple changes can make a big difference to the risk of chronic conditions such as type II diabetes.
  16. ^ "Speeches archive, Melanie Johnson MP (2003 - 2005)". UK Department of Health. 8 February 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  17. ^ "Women to get 'better smear tests'". BBC. BBC News. 22 October 2003. Retrieved 4 February 2009. This new technique will reduce the numbers of women who have to have their smear test repeated.
  18. ^ "Health | Women to get 'better smear tests'". BBC News. 22 October 2003. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  19. ^ "Health | Domestic abuse check for pregnant". BBC News. 20 October 2004. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  20. ^ "Firms urged to cut salt in food". BBC. BBC News. 6 May 2004. Retrieved 4 February 2009. Nutrition and health is one aspect of people's lives where simple changes can make a big difference to the risk of chronic conditions such as type II diabetes.
  21. ^ Revill, Jo (12 September 2004). "Salt victim backs food campaign | Society | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  22. ^ Carter, Helen (13 September 2004). "Food watchdog launches drive to cut salt intake | Society". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  23. ^ Woolf, Marie (23 October 2003). "Dump your toothbrush, says health minister". The Independent. London: Independent News & Media. Retrieved 4 February 2009.[dead link]
  24. ^ Shrewsbury, Martyn (2003). "Don't brush your teeth, kids, drink fluoride instead!". The Green Party. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  25. ^ Hall, Celia (24 October 2003). "Fluoride 'better than brushing'". London: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 4 February 2009. Water fluoridation delivers a greater reduction in tooth decay than toothpaste and reaches everybody.
  26. ^ "Election 2005 | England | Health Minister loses Herts seat". BBC News. 6 May 2005. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  27. ^ "The 'Blair babes': Where are they now?". BBC News. 8 May 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  28. ^ "Customer Impact". Customer Impact. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  29. ^ "Payment Card Press Releases". UK Cards Association. Archived from the original on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  30. ^ Ross Anderson (25 December 2010). "Blog Archive » A Merry Christmas to all Bankers". Light Blue Touchpaper. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  31. ^ "Labour announces by-election shortlist". The Northern Echo. 4 July 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  32. ^ Chris Lloyd, "Labour chooses one of the 'Famous Five'"
  33. ^ Cosgrove, Sarah (20 September 2007). "Walthamstow: 27 women candidates vie for Labour nomination". This is Local London. Newsquest Media Group. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  34. ^ Piper, Linda. "ERITH & THAMESMEAD: Labour Party at war over who will replace MP (From This Is Local London)". Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  35. ^ "Labour ballot box 'tampered with'". BBC News. 18 April 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  36. ^ Saner, Emine (18 April 2009). "I signed it. Then the man said: Have you met Georgia? She's very nice". The Guardian. London.
  37. ^ Abrams, Fran; Brown, Colin (5 March 1997). "Outrage as MP goes over the top". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  38. ^ a b Ward, Lucy (23 October 2001). "Minister steps down for surgery". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2021.

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Welwyn Hatfield
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Economic Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by