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Blackburn MP Jack Straw to step down at next general election
JACK Straw last night announced he is stepping down as MP for Blackburn at the next general election.
He surprised a meeting of the town’s Labour Party by telling them he was too old to represent the constituency for another seven years.
The 67-year-old revealed summer events including a health scare, the death of his 92-year-old mother Joan and the birth of his two grandchildren had persuaded him not to fight the election due in May 2015.
This was a U-turn from statements made earlier in the year.
After 34 years in parliament, Blackburn’s longest serving MP and holder of four cabinet posts was hailed ‘a true Labour giant’ by Tony Blair as tributes poured in from across the political spectrum.
Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Kate Hollern said he had been a ‘superb MP for more than 30 years’.
Ex council Conservative leader Colin Rigby said he was ‘a great guy and an excellent MP for Blackburn’.
Within minutes of the announcement at a meeting of the Blackburn Constituency Labour Party at the town’s Central Library, speculation began as to who would succeed him.
Coun Hollern was one name mentioned and Mr Straw’s constituency secretary Damian Talbot confirmed he would seek the Labour nomination after his ‘fantastic’ boss.
Insiders predicted a raft of Asian heritage candidates, possibly including local councillor Shaukat Hussein, as well as senior Labour figures from elsewhere.
Coun Hollern said it was too early to comment, and Blackburn Labour Party secretary Phil Riley said Mr Straw would be ‘a hard act to follow’.
Mr Straw told last night’s meeting: ”I was 27 when I started work for then Blackburn MP Barbara Castle; 32 when I was elected as MP for this town in 1979.
“Eight general elections later I’m still here, and somehow, I’m no longer 27 but 67.
“This is a constituency which rightly requires a complete commitment from its MP.
“Whatever national position I have held, the citizens of this town, and their children, have always been my first priority.
“Whilst I am as certain as anyone can be that I’d have the energy to continue at the pace necessary for three or four years, I couldn’t guarantee that I could keep going at that pace right into my mid-70s.
“To take that risk would be profoundly unfair, on the electors of Blackburn, on this party, and on my wife Alice and my family.
“Labour is part of my soul, and so is this town.”
He predicted and promised to work for a Labour victory under Ed Miliband in 2015.
Coun Hollern hailed Mr Straw as ‘a massive presence for the town’ and Ribble Valley Tory MP Nigel Evans said: “No-one could doubt Jack’s passion and commitment as Blackburn MP.”
Mr Straw said: “I honestly thought in March I would stand again.
“But over the summer with the death of my mother, fearing I had throat cancer which turned out to be a cyst and becoming a grandfather twice, I realised I was getting older and could not honestly represent the town for another seven years when I would be 74.
“I shall continue as a governor of Blackburn College as it seeks to expand its university base.
“I will also keep my house in the town centre and visit regularly. My daughter Charlotte and her family live in Manchester and I hope my son Will will become MP for Rossendale and Darwen.
“It’s been a fantastic privilege to represent Blackburn and I’m not going.”
Mr Straw said he would accept a peerage if offered one where he would still make the case for Blackburn.
He said he had never considered that his son Will could take over as Labour candidate for Blackburn but hoped he would make it to Westminster where his father would not now overshadow him.
Asked about his major achievements, he highlighted the Macpherson report into the Stephen Lawrence murder which changed policing and the perception of black and Asian people in British society as his national success.
Locally, he said: “I am delighted that when cotton declined, Blackburn has survived unlike so many other industrial centres, especially in the United States, which have become ‘ghost towns’.
“My ambition for Blackburn is to continue to grow the university campus because the key to the town’s future is to widen its intellectual base so it can build a new prosperity in the town.”
1946 - Born to couple living on council estate in Essex. Father left home when he was 10.
1968 – Married teacher Anthea Watson. One daughter who died as an infant. Divorced 1977.
1969 - Elected president of National Union of Students.
1974 – Appointed political adviser to Cabinet Minister Barbara Castle.
1978 – Married civil servant Alice Perkins. One son William, one daughter Charlotte.
1979 – Elected as MP for Blackburn.
1981 – Goes deaf in one ear after an infection.
1987 – Appointed to Shadow Cabinet as education spokesman; 1994 takes Home Office brief.
1997 – Made Home Secretary in Tony Blair's new Labour government. Son Will involved in supplying drugs to Daily Mirror reporter and marched to police station by dad.
2001 – Made Foreign Secretary after Robin Cook demoted.
2003 – Key figure in run-up to and aftermath of Iraq War against Saddam Hussein.
2005 – Survives backlash against his role in the conflict to win Blackburn again.
2006 – Demoted to Leader of the Commons.
2007 – Runs Gordon Brown's leadership campaign and rewarded with Lord Chancellorship.
2010 – Stands down from Labour front bench to allow new leader a 'fresh start'.
2013 – Becomes a grandfather twice in two days in September.
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