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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Profile: Jack Straw
Jack Straw
Jack Straw was known as a tough-talking home secretary
Leader of the Commons Jack Straw is one of the most senior members of the government, widely regarded as a competent and reliable minister.

He was a surprise appointment as foreign secretary in the reshuffle following the 2001 election.

He secured the top job from the late Robin Cook and it soon pitched him into the centre of the Blair government's greatest controversy.

The 60-year-old played a leading role in the unsuccessful attempt to secure a second UN Security Council resolution on going to war in Iraq.

He later forged a close alliance with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, touring her home state of Alabama and hosting her return visit to his Blackburn constituency.

Iran reports

Mr Blair denied that he sacked Mr Straw because of American disquiet about him saying that war against Iran was "inconceivable".

Since leaving the Foreign Office Mr Straw has been seen as increasingly close to Chancellor Gordon Brown.

And he voiced his concerns about Tony Blair's policy in Lebanon.

Mr Straw said Israel was entitled to defend itself but its action was "disproportionate" - a sentiment carefully avoided by Mr Blair and his successor as Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett.

Mr Straw spent Labour's first term as a tough-talking Home Secretary who found himself accused by some in the party of being more right-wing than his Conservative predecessors.

Student leader

Over four years he tackled some of Labour's trickiest problems - the Pinochet affair, asylum seekers and the party's determination to be considered "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".

Mr Straw comes from a left-wing family, though he was sent to the private Brentwood School in Essex.

He was the son of an insurance clerk and a teacher.

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.

Public sympathy

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.

He had his own brush with youth crime, when it was revealed his 17-year old son had sold cannabis to a newspaper reporter.

Mr Straw, who has two children, 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.

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