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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 02:33 GMT
Straw laughs off 'troublemaker' past
Jack Straw at UN in New York
Jack Straw laughed off the diplomat's 1966 despatch
A worried diplomat's assessment about the conduct of future foreign secretary Jack Straw on a student trip to south America has been laughed off by the perpetrator.

Mr Straw said descriptions of him as a "troublemaker... acting with malice aforethought" on a visit to Chile were a "storm in a teacup".

He was speaking at a news conference in New York called to announce the UK's latest thinking on the Iraq crisis - a far cry from his role in left wing student politics while studying law at Leeds University almost 40 years ago.

Back then he and 20 other student leaders, planning to build a youth centre, were considered "depressingly immature" and more concerned with furthering their own political careers than the job in hand.

His apparent objective was to cause a minor scandal which would demonstrate that the present NUS executive was incapable of proper organisation
UK diplomat on Jack Straw

The damning comments were contained in a desptach from the British embassy in Chile to officials at the Foreign Office in London, which Mr Straw now heads.

It has only emerged now in papers released by the Public Records Office.

Alexander Stirling, a senior diplomat in Santiago, said they had had to act to prevent a "minor scandal" and damage to Anglo-Chile relations.

"While no real damage was done to Anglo-Chilean relations, this is likely to be due more to luck than to good management," he noted.

Asked about the disclosures, Mr Straw laughed and said: "I have seen the document and I was surprised that given that it was a storm in a teacup inside a student delegation in the summer of 1966 that it caused so much trouble inside the British Embassy in Chile.

"What I would say is that I think that just as politicians have changed in the last 37 years so have British diplomats - they have been slimmed down and they have more to do so they have fewer reports like that to write."


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