Ten things you didn't know about Jack Straw

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 3 August 2011 in Diary
The former justice secretary is 65 today. In honour of his long political career, we dig up some lesser-known facts about him

The MP for Blackburn has served his constituency since 1979 and added a host of front bench positions to his portfolio whilst in government. Whether it is was his decision to release Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi or his comments on the Islamic veil, his career has had its fair share of controversy.

1. In 1969 he succeeded in being elected President of the NUS, having led the campaign to remove the "no politics" clause from the NUS constitution.

2. Straw has sometimes kept some unlikely company. Jack Straw and Paul Dacre met each when Dacre was editor of the Leeds University student newspaper and Straw was student union president.

3. Straw was the ‘man of the house’ from a young age. His father, Walter, (sent to prison during World War II for being a conscientious objector) left home when Straw was just 10 years old.

4. Straw won praise from Margaret Thatcher after the 1997 general election, when he brought forward the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which increased police powers against terrorism. The Iron Lady declared 'I trust Jack Straw. He is a very fair man.'

5. In September 2009, Straw made the decision to pardon Liverpool fan Michael Shields (who was convicted of the attempted murder of Martin Gorgiev). Nine witnesses — including Georgiev himself — positively identified Shields as being party to the crime.

The then Home Secretary Jack Straw refused to explain the reasoning for the pardon and stated “I will not set out all the evidence that has come to light. Suffice it to say that there is very good reason to believe I was being told the truth.”

6. Straw seems to have an increasing interest in stationery. Taking £433 out of the public purse for centrally purchased stationary in 2001/02, this figure subsequently rose to £1,127, £1,544, £1,954 to a peak of £2,261 in 2005/2006.

Straw was in hot water over parliamentary expenses, where he claimed for the council tax on his constituency home in 2009. He later conceded that ‘accountancy does not appear to be my strongest suit’.

7. Straw has long suffered from tinnitus. In a debate that following the infamous resignation of the prisons' chief Derek Lewis, Straw seemed badly prepared for his confrontation with the then Tory Home Secretary, Michael Howard (who was later the recipient of intense scrutiny from Jeremy Paxman). Straw later stated that a bad attack of tinnitus had made it very hard for him to hear Tory interventions, and to respond.

8. Straw was a criminal law junior when the IRA bombed the Old Bailey in 1973. The attack saw Straw receive minor injuries, with a shard of glass piercing his buttock.

9. Despite many jobs nowadays requiring a 2:1 minimum, Straw emerged from Leeds University with just a 2:2 in Law. Many put this down to his student activism and work with the NUS.

10. Despite being a lawyer and former justice secretary, some of Straw’s family members have been on the wrong side of the law. His brother was found guilty of indecent assault in 2000 and his son (when 17) was caught selling cannabis to an undercover reporter.

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