Vote Jack Straw out : a public appeal to the voters of Blackburn, Lancashire - blog by Gurdur


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Vote Jack Straw out : a public appeal to the voters of Blackburn, Lancashire
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Posted 18-Jan-2010 at 01:31 AM (01:31) by Gurdur
Updated 05-May-2010 at 09:43 AM (09:43) by Gurdur

This is a public call to the voters of Blackburn (the UK Parliament constituency), for voting out specifically Jack Straw in the coming national election this year, regardless of where your political sympathies lie otherwise, even if you support Labour winning the election on the whole.

It is not a call to deselect him, though that would also be just as worthwhile, since the chances of deselecting him from being the Labour candidate for Blackburn are practically zero. So this is an appeal to all voters of Blackburn, Lancashire, to make sure Jack Straw (John Whitaker Straw) is not re-elected to parliament this year.

There are three main reasons for this (explained fully further below):
  1. Jack Straw has displayed a contempt for professionals serving the public, as when he alleged police were willingly spending too much time indoors. This displayed contempt only reveals a managerial and leadership incompetence that can only be destructive, whether to Britain, to the public services, or to Labour.
  2. Jack Straw is one of those chiefly responsible for the attacks on the ethos and structure of public service, whether police, NHS or other. This is shown in the over-use of and reliance upon inappropriate, counter-productive targets, in the underfunding and chronically wrongly directed funding of the public services, and the long fad for privatization, despite its obvious failures.
  3. Jack Straw displayed a lack of backbone, a lack of real integrity, over the Second Iraq War, and must therefore also count as one of those chiefly responsible for sending British armed forces into Iraq woefully under-equipped and ill-prepared.

To the first and second points:
Jack Straw has very recently made the stupid remarks that:
"I'm afraid I am rather sceptical about the excuse that a public service, in this case the police, is overworked and therefore can't change. With a given level of resources, some police forces, or some parts of police forces do very much better than others. And it is the ones who are less efficient and who have the wrong approach to the public who fall back on this 'Oh, I am overworked' [argument]." ...

Straw went on to say that while some officers would claim it would take four hours to complete a particular form, "good police officers will take an hour to fill in the same forms because they want to get out and catch criminals."

"Some police officers, whatever they say, actually quite enjoy being in the police station in the warm. We are dealing with human beings, but we are also dealing with the kind of discipline and culture in the police service."
Now, Jack Straw was Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001, and he is presently Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and Secretary of State for Justice.

If he had any actual evidence that his allegations were true, he should have carefully and thoroughly backed up his assertions with carefully-researched facts and figures, ones which were actually logically relevant and made a proper case.

He didn't. All he did was let loose an unsubstantiated barrage, too Colonel Blimp by far. He had a responsibility to get his facts straight, open and publicised, since he had been a Home Secretary for years and he is now Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and Secretary of State for Justice; he didn't.

He merely made an unsubstantiated attack on the police forces of Britain as a whole; this is the worst kind of populism, this is encouragement of rule by tabloid, this is Jack Straw not realising how dreadfully counter-productive he is being. Rule by tabloid, rule by populist and ignorant attack, has played havoc with the public services in Britain, whether with the police, the NHS or other. The constant cry of, "Do something!", and the hidden destructive agendas only all too often played out under cover of the slogan, "Reform! Reform!", allied with the most thoughtless schedules of targets set, have all been hugely counter-productive for Britain, in particular England and Wales.

The privatization of public services that should have in the name of fairness stayed state public services has also played a very destructive role; just how much did the privatization of the railways actually save the average British taxpayer? Or did it end up costing the British public far more for far worse services from disjointed private companies? Privatization has no place in the law and penal systems, or in the NHS as it is (which already coexists with a private health sector); yet privatization as an empty, mindless slogan in answer to everything is still bandied about, long after the credit-crisis showed some uncomfortable home truths about the failures of faddishness and deregulation, let alone relying on the finance sector rather than manufacturing etc. to provide the economic basis for Britain.

Police bloggers have themselves commented on all this. For example, here, and here, and here, and most especially here, and also here; but I as an outside observer would like to stress some other facets.

It is a terrible electoral and governmental policy for Labour politicians to be making unsubstantiated, populist attacks on sections of the civil service; it only makes Labour look fully incompetent, given how many years Labour have now been in national office in Britain and have had a chance to change things to their own liking, and it can only encourage those who really would savagely cut public services, while losing votes for Labour as well.

Jack Straw also acts in a way as the overall if semi-official commander of justice in Britain, and he has a responsibility to his own troops, the police and other civil servants, to make sure they are alright and that they have the wherewithal to do their job; yet the cuttings in funding, now made far worse by the knock-on effects of dealing with the credit-crisis, have had terrible effects on policing overall again.

Onto the third point:

It has now been revealed in the course of the Chilcot inquiry that back in 2002 Jack Straw wrote a private letter to the PM, Tony Blair, warning Blair that the planned invasion by the USA under Bush was legally dubious, doubtful as to potential achievement, and based on very shakey and questionable data indeed (the WMD assertions, for example).

Blair later reacted by effectively demoting Straw and promoting him sideways, but Straw, if he had had the backbone and real integrity, should have resigned completely in protest from the government, just as Robin Cook did. But Straw didn't. Certainly, the greatest part of the blame and responsibility must be laid on Tony Blair; but Straw's failure to follow Cook's example and resign too puts Straw into the ranks of those responsible for the entire debacle as well, and how that debacle was so shoddily managed by the British government in planning and implementation.

You can read here a copy in full of the letter Straw sent to Blair in 2002, warning about the Iraqi war plans, and more comment about it here, and a newspaper op-ed piece asking just why then Straw did not resign back then in protest and on principle as a consequence.

Now, the results from the last national general election in May, 2005, in the Blackburn parliamentary constituency were as follows:

John Whitaker Straw Labour 17,562 42.0
Imtiaz Ali Ameen Conservative 9,553 22.9
Anthony Peter Melia Liberal Democrat 8,608 20.6
Nicholas Holt BNP 2,263 5.4
Craig John Murray Independent 2,082 5.0
Dorothy Baxter UKIP 954 2.3
Graham Arthur Carter Green 783 1.9

But that was with only with a turnout of a very poor 57.5%, in an electorate of 72,707, so a much higher turnout could really change matters.

The candidates for the forthcoming general election this year will apparently include:

Liberal Democrat Paul English
BNP Robin Evans
Conservative Michael Law-Riding
Labour Jack Straw (John Whitaker Straw)

All in all, Straw could be unseated if for example the Tories withdrew their own candidate, and recommended tactical voting for the Liberal Democrat candidate instead. This is something I would recommend, since I personally will not recommend voting for the Tory candidate, given that the Conservatives are likely to make even more savage cuts to the public service than Labour, and to use government by tabloid and populist attack on civil servants even more so than Labour.

But in any case, I call for the unseating of Straw, or if at all possible his deselection. I do acknowledge Straw is far from being the worst or the most responsible for all that has gone wrong; Straw has indeed accomplished good things, and he has done his best as he sees it; and he is far better than many other politicians. I do not deny he has worked very hard for his constituents, and for the government.

But the fact that he did not resign indicates he is either too much of a team player or swayed by other motives, and when the ethical crunch comes to the crunch, being a good teamplayer is just not the most important thing. Robin Cook resigned on principle, Jack Straw could have done so too.

Labour need to be sent a very strong signal, whether they are re-elected into office or not, that the current fads ruling policy within the Labour Party and government are counter-productive and destructive. And they all need to learn that public servants are also members of the public, and that public servants deserve to have the wherewithal and respect to do their jobs. Tony Blair is no longer in power in the government, and so no public action can be aimed at him anymore as the one bearing the huge majority of due responsibility.

Attacking the civil service on the basis of uninformed populism for the sake of ignorant populism is no way to run a country. This is something that must be made very clear.

You are very welcome to disagree with me, though I ask you please to explain why in detail. Should you wish to comment here on my blog post, you are very welcome to do so; guests are able to make comments, the answer to the "random question" is always "Heathen", exactly as given but without the quotation marks.

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Many thanks for reading this all to the end!

My blog posts on the British general election of 2010:

Vote Jack Straw out : a public appeal to the voters of Blackburn, Lancashire

The grand old Duke of York's men: the British general election - a triumph of metaphor over reality, Part 1

Hang them high: the British general election - a triumph of metaphor over reality, Part 2

Atheists get involved as atheists in the British general election; led by Pat Condell and the UKIP, it goes all wonky.

Just call me mellow yellow: the British general election - a triumph of metaphor over reality, Part 3
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