Iraq war architect Jack Straw to step down at next election

Jack Straw

Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary and one of the architects of the Iraq war and occupation, is to stand down as MP for Blackburn at the next general election.

Straw, 67, was elected in 1979 and has stood in eight general elections in the constituency which has a high Muslim population.

‘Terrible wrench,” Mr Straw said. “Whatever national position I have held, the citizens of this town, and their children, have always been my first priority. I am deeply grateful to everyone in the town for the faith which has been placed in me.”

Straw said he had made the decision to stand down after a great deal of thought and consultation with friends and family. He added he “couldn’t go on forever.”

Mr Straw held the positions of home secretary, foreign secretary and leader of the House of Commons under Tony Blair.  Blair said parliament would “lose one of the most able politicians of my generation” in 2015.

“Jack Straw is a true Labour giant. I was lucky enough to have him in Cabinet throughout my time as prime minister, where he put his brilliant mind to work on two of the most challenging briefs: home and foreign affairs. Jack’s contribution to law and order in Britain and this country’s standing in the world is quite simply formidable.”


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Straw was initially seen as pro-Muslim in some quarters and has always had good relations with many of his Muslim constituents and among prominent Muslim power-brokers.

As Shadow Education spokesman in 1987 he called on Local Education Authorities to give private Muslim and Orthodox Jewish schools the right to opt out of the state system and still receive public funds. His comments came at a time of great controversy regarding the funding of Muslim schools.

But his backing of the Iraq war in 2003 soured that relationship. In the run up to the 2005 general election Straw MPAC UK attempted to capitalise on anti-war sentiment with “Operation Muslim Vote” in Blackburn. Straw’s vote fell by 20% compared to the previous general election in 2001 but the swing to the second placed Conservatives was less than 2%, much lower than the national average.

The US and UK invaded Iraq in 2003
The US and UK invaded Iraq in 2003

In February 2006, Straw attracted publicity after he condemned the publication of cartoons picturing the Prophet Muhammad (saw) in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

In October 2006 Straw attracted controversy by suggesting to a local newspaper that Muslim women who wear veils that cover their faces (the niqab) can inhibit inter-community relations, though he denied the issue was raised for political gain, stating that he had raised it in private circles in the past and it had never progressed beyond discussions.

In January 2011, Straw provoked controversy with comments made on Newsnight about Pakistani men. He said “there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men … who target vulnerable young white girls.” His comments came after two men of Pakistani origin were convicted of rape in Derby.

Despite repeated denials about his complicity in extraordinary rendition – he once dismissed the suggestion of UK involvement in the practice as a “conspiracy theory” – Straw had been dogged for years over his alleged leading role in it, with specific accusations about the case of Abdel Hakim Belhadj arising in April 2012.

In October 2012, the Guardian reported on the filing of court papers, which alleged that MI6 alerted Muammar Gaddafi’s intelligence services to the whereabouts of dissidents, co-operated in their rendition, sent officers and detailed questions to assist in their interrogation, and that Straw attempted to conceal this from MPs.

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