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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 22:32 GMT
Straw banned from old student haunt

Straw Jack Straw was president at Leeds in 1968

If Jack Straw ever fancies a drink in one of his old student haunts, he's in for a disappointment.

Indeed, he's more likely to be met with a simple: "Sorry home secretary - you're barred."

Get trial by jury back, and you can come and have a pint
Simon Rothstein's message to Jack Straw
For on Thursday, students at Leeds University - anguished by some of their illustrious predecessor's decisions since reaching high office - quite simply banned Mr Straw from the students' union.

More than 600 agitated students gathered for the meeting to consider the future of the home secretary's honorary life membership of the union where he was president in 1968.

And all but around 50 agreed that Mr Straw was no longer welcome.

Simon Rothstein, the union's finance and administration officer, who proposed the motion, said Mr Straw's policies on asylum seekers and trial by jury had just been, well, the last straw.

He said: "The only people who like him are Margaret Thatcher and our vice chancellor.

"Even the Bar Council have come out and said Jack Straw has gone too far.

"He has brought total shame on the union. When he was in opposition we were quite proud. Now he is in government we are ashamed.

No gloom

"He has gone too far. He has done things even Michael Howard would not have done."

The vote means Mr Straw is banned for three years, when the decision will be reviewed.

Leeds University awarded Straw an honorary degree
But there was a word of comfort for Mr Straw from Mr Rothstein: "Get trial by jury back, and you can come and have a pint," Mr Rothstein told him.

Mr Straw is not reported, however, to have descended into a deep gloom following the decision.

"Mr Straw thoroughly enjoyed his time at Leeds University," said a spokesman for the home secretary. "And he enjoys returning to the city.

"But I doubt if he will be losing any sleep over this."

A Labour spokesman was more robust, describing the ban as "puerile gesture".

The ban is being accompanied by a photograph of Mr Straw on the union building alongside a plaque reading: "This union believes that Jack Straw, as home secretary, has furthered government policies curtailing civil liberties. As a result, he is not welcome here."

The union debate
All Jack Straw's policies have a greater negative effect on those already disadvantaged by society
Jack Straw's policies undermine basic principles of freedom, liberty and democracy
Jack Straw has introduced policy even the most right wing Tory home secretaries didn't dare introduce and about which he spoke strongly against whilst in opposition
If the students of 1968 knew then what we know today, Jack Straw would never have been voted president of this fine institution
LUU is ashamed that Jack Straw was ever its president
Jack Straw is a disgrace to both LUU and the country
Mr Rothstein said Mr Straw was president of Leeds University Union in 1968, and like all ex-sabbatical officers he was given life membership.

He said: "But because of all the things he's done since coming to government, the erosion of civil liberties, the Freedom of Information Bill, the anti-terrorism legislation, the Asylum and Immigration Bill, the removal of legal aid, we want to ban him from the building.

"He doesn't deserve life membership and we are suggesting he got it under false pretences because he never would have got that now with his attacks on civil liberties."

The students also want the university's authorities to take back Mr Straw's honorary degree, which he was awarded last year.

Mr Straw was not at the debate to defend himself. He was making a statement to the House of Commons on the hijackers at Stansted Airport, followed by an opening statement on the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill.

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