1. ITV Report

Blackburn's Jack Straw to stand down as MP

Jack Straw has announced that he is to step down as MP for Blackburn Photo: PA Images

Labour's elder statesman Jack Straw is to stand down as an MP at the next general election, he announced today.

The former home secretary, foreign secretary and lord chancellor broke the news to his constituency Labour Party in Blackburn, the Lancashire town which he has served as MP since 1979.

Mr Straw, 67, said that it would be a "terrible wrench" to leave the House of Commons at the election, scheduled for May 2015, but said he did not want to "push my luck" by attempting to stay on into his 70s.

Labour leader Ed Miliband paid tribute to the "eloquence and wisdom" of a politician who has sat in the Commons for 34 years and was one of only three people to serve in the Cabinet throughout the Labour administrations of 1997-2010. He appeared to hint at the possibility of a seat in the House of Lords for Mr Straw, who he said "will continue to serve our country in many different ways".

And Mr Straw made clear his support for Mr Miliband, saying he had "the ability, the determination and the character to take this country to a better and much fairer place than under this Government".

He promised to "devote all my energies" to putting Mr Miliband into 10 Downing Street and said he had "no doubt" that Labour can win under his leadership in 2015.

Blackburn is a rock-solid Labour safe seat which the party has held since its creation in 1955 and which delivered Mr Straw a comfortable majority of 9,856 in 2010. His departure will leave a tempting vacancy for would-be Labour candidates.

Mr Straw told constituency activists that he had made the decision to stand down after a great deal of thought and consultation with friends and family, including wife Alice.

"Labour is part of my soul, and so is this town," he told them.

"My love affair with this town is not going to end on May 7 2015, nor is my connection with it.

"But there were three issues I had to face. First, that I couldn't go on forever as the town's MP. Second, that whether I stood down in 2015, or in 2020, or whenever, it would be a terrible wrench. Third, that 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 Alice and my family.

"Luck does play a significant part in anyone's fortunes, and, as I have said, I have been very lucky. So, to put this another way, I did not want to push my luck, to tempt providence."

Mr Straw said Mr Miliband had got the upper hand over David Cameron since announcing Labour's energy price freeze promise at his party conference last month.

"It's always wise to be careful what we wish for," said the former cabinet minister. "I bet Mr Cameron now regrets all those demands, those taunts, he made of Ed for more details of our policy. He got his answers in Ed's brilliant speech to our party's conference. With that speech Ed changed the political weather. Just two days ago, at Prime Minister's Questions, we saw Mr Cameron struggling hopelessly to say what he would do about energy prices."

Mr Straw said he would never take electoral victory for granted, but added: "I am in no doubt that under Ed Miliband we can win the general election in 2015, with Ed as prime minister, and a Labour government committed to a fairer, and therefore more successful economy and society.

"I will not be a candidate at that election. But I promise you that I will be devoting all my energies to help put Ed Miliband in Downing Street, to win in Blackburn and across the country."

Mr Miliband said: "Jack Straw will be greatly missed from the House of Commons.

"On behalf of the Labour Party, I want to thank him for his nearly 35 years service as an MP, his achievements in government and his eloquence and wisdom.

"He can be rightly proud of his role as Home Secretary, where he oversaw a fall in crime, and ordered and implemented the Macpherson report which fundamentally changed attitudes to racism and policing. He served with distinction as Foreign Secretary during the difficult times after 9/11 and played a significant role in the last Labour government's achievements as leader of the House of Commons and justice secretary.

"He can also be rightly proud of his contribution to Labour's victory in 1997 and was one of only three people to have served in the Cabinet continuously during Labour's 13 years in government.

"He has been a great friend and loyal supporter to me during my time as leader. It is a measure of the man that I know the same would have been said by the six predecessors of mine under whom he served. He is Labour through and through, and always displayed this in his words and deeds.

"He will be sorely missed but I know he will continue to serve our country in many different ways."

Jack Straw served in two of the great offices of state and was one of only three people to hold Cabinet office throughout the Labour governments of 1997-2010.

After first coming to national attention as an anti-establishment firebrand president of the National Union of Students, he took his place at the heart of the establishment as home secretary, foreign secretary and the first non-peer since the 16th century to be appointed lord chancellor.

Sometimes touted as a possible leader of the Labour Party, Mr Straw never made a bid for the top job, settling instead for the role of rock of stability within the febrile New Labour administrations, able to move smoothly from Tony Blair's close ally during the Iraq war to running Gordon Brown's campaign to replace him in 2007.

A barrister by training, he became known in the House of Commons for his precise and careful oratory and his forensic attention to detail. He is seen as the epitome of fairness and justice, treating his political opponents with as much care, concern and consideration as those on his own side.

As a campaigner, he is renowned for his readiness to take on questions from all-comers from his soapbox on the streets of Blackburn, which he has served as MP for 34 years. He is an avid fan of Blackburn Rovers, and an honorary vice-president of the club.

John Whitaker Straw was born on August 3, 1946, son of an insurance clerk father, who had been jailed in the war as a conscientious objector, and a teacher mother. He grew up on an Essex council estate.

After a high-profile stint as NUS president from 1969-71, he worked briefly in journalism and the law and became a protege of prominent Labour veteran Barbara Castle, whose Blackburn seat he inherited.

Entering Parliament in 1979, he joined Neil Kinnock's shadow cabinet in 1987 and served as spokesman on education and environment before taking over Mr Blair's role as shadow home secretary when he became leader in 1994.

Appointed home secretary in 1997, he took a harder line on law and order than many of his Labour predecessors, in keeping with Mr Blair's "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" mantra. But his tenure was also notable for significant liberal measures such as the introduction of the 1998 Human Rights Act and the commissioning of Sir William Macpherson to conduct an inquiry into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

He infuriated many on the Labour left by blocking the extradition of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to face trial in Spain after his arrest in London, and eventually allowed him to return home on health grounds.

Moved to foreign secretary after Labour's election victory in 2001, Mr Straw soon found himself thrust into the international crisis which followed the September 11 attacks on the USA.

In public, he was a staunch supporter of Mr Blair's decision to take Britain into war in Iraq alongside America. But he told the Chilcot Inquiry in 2010 that backing the invasion was the "most difficult decision" he ever took, and that he committed himself "very reluctantly" to military action only after the failure of diplomatic efforts became evident.

He was challenged by anti-war activists during the 2005 election campaign but held on to his seat comfortably. And his speech to the Labour annual conference that year was interrupted by a shout of "nonsense" by veteran peace campaigner Walter Wolfgang, whose ejection by bouncers proved a major embarrassment to the leadership.

The events of the "war on terror" have since come back to haunt him, with persistent questions over how much he knew about the US practice of "extraordinary rendition" of suspects. Libyan military commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj last year initiated legal action against Mr Straw for allegedly authorising his rendition from Thailand to the prisons of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

In 2006, Mr Straw was moved to leader of the Commons, and sparked controversy after revealing that he asked Muslim women to remove their veils to enhance communication at his constituency surgeries.

Mr Brown appointed him lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice, a position in which he served until Labour's defeat at the 2010 general election. Back in opposition, he was briefly shadow deputy prime minister until stepping down from the frontbenches after 30 years on Ed Miliband's election as leader.

He is married to Alice and has a daughter and a son, Will, who was recently adopted as Labour prospective parliamentary candidate in the 2015 election for the Lancashire seat of Rossendale and Darwen.

Mr Straw's son Will said in a message on Twitter: "I'm immensely proud of my Dad as he announces he'll be stepping down at the next election after 36 years as Blackburn's MP."

Will Straw has been adopted as Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate in the 2015 election for the Lancashire seat of Rossendale and Darwen, which neighbours Blackburn.