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Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Straw: New man at UK Foreign Office
Jack Straw
Jack Straw is one of Tony Blair's closest cabinet allies
The most high-profile casualty in the reshuffle at the beginning of Tony Blair's second term in office is Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who has been replaced by the former Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

Analysts will be looking to see if Mr Cook's replacement is an advocate of the "ethical foreign policy" promised after Labour's first landslide.

Jack Straw's CV
Born: 3 August 1946
School: Brentwood, Essex
University: Leeds (law degree)
First job: President National Union of Students
Special adviser to Barbara Castle
1979: MP for Blackburn
1994: Shadow home secretary
1997: Home Secretary
Hobbies: Cooking, watching Blackburn Rovers football club

The new man at the FCO is regarded as one of the more right-wing and Euro-sceptic of Labour's ministers.

His appointment could reflect Mr Blair's intention to reassure the British public ahead of key battles in the next parliament over the European Union and single European currency.

Whatever the strategy in Downing Street, there is no doubt Mr Straw is a highly capable performer who is trusted by the prime minister and seen as a safe pair of hands.

As home secretary for the past four years, he rigorously pursued Mr Blair's pledge to be "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime".

To satirists and the left he appeared to be trying to outdo his Tory predecessors with his tough line on asylum, teenage thugs and curbing the right to trial by jury for some defendants.

Mr Straw's toughest moments came after his decision not to extradite the former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, to Spain to face charges of torture and violation of human rights, but instead to allow him to return home on grounds of health.

General Augusto Pinochet
General Pinochet: Straw refused to extradite
Despite his right-wing credentials, Mr Straw comes from a left-wing family, though he was sent to the private Brentwood school in Essex.

His great grandfather took part in the battle against removal of common land from villagers; his grandfather was a Labour activist, his pacifist father avoided military service during World War II as a conscientious objector and his mother was also a socialist and pacifist.

At the age of 14 he joined the Labour party and by 1969, with a law degree from Leeds University behind him, he became the left-wing leader of the National Union of Students at the height of radical unrest on Britain's campuses.

Rapid rise

In 1974, the then-social services secretary Barbara Castle took him on as an adviser and he inherited her Blackburn parliamentary seat in 1979.

Mr Straw rapidly moved into the Neil Kinnock camp and later, through the long years of opposition in the 1980s and 1990s, completed his journey to the right - spending three years as a Blairite shadow home secretary.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw leaves Downing St after his appointment
On taking the real job with Labour's first landslide in 1997, he was soon being attacked by the left as illiberal for his zero tolerance of "winos, addicts and squeegee merchants".

But after his own brush with youth crime, when it was revealed his 17-year old son had sold cannabis to a newspaper reporter, he gained great public sympathy.

He took his son to the police station to face up to his crime and was painted as a typical father trying to do the best for his child.

Two homes

Mr Straw will barely have time to settle into the two official residences (Carlton Gardens in London and Chevening in Kent) he inherits as foreign secretary.

His in-tray already contains a thick file marked "euro" and to him falls the task of guided Britain through a referendum on joining the European single currency.

Some commentators have interpreted his appointment in succession to Robin Cook as a sign that Tony Blair does not want to rush the task of convincing the electorate to scrap the pound in favour of signing up to the euro.

But others see it as the first step to doing just that, arguing that it will be easier to swing opinion if a converted sceptic is at the helm rather than the openly Europhile Mr Cook.

And almost immediately he set be off to the EU Council in Gothenburg, Sweden next week.

There he will hope to meet the guest of honour George W Bush to try to cement the "special relationship" which is in danger of becoming strained over plans for a European Rapid Reaction Force, which some believe could undermine Nato.

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08 Jun 01 | Talking Point
The next big vote - the euro?
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