Why Jack Straw Lost his Job

Plainly, the Tony Party is in deep, deep trouble. Labour not only got thumped in local elections all over Britain, it actually finished third. Hardly surprising, really, given the shambles that Blair’s cabinet had become, with John Prescott gefuffling with his secretary, Charles Clarke inadvertantly losing a thousand convicts eligible for deportation, and so on. So Blair has announced sweeping changse to his cabinet to show he’s heeding the voters. But the most interesting change he announced on Friday was the demotion of longtime ally Jack Straw from the job of Foreign Secretary. After all, these were local elections, and why drop your top diplomat when his purview would seem to have nothing to do with Labour’s setbacks? Well, it’s worth noting that the British people know they were lied to and manipulated by Blair to get them to join the invasion of Iraq, and that’s a loss of confidence from which this Labour government won’t easily recover. (Especially now when the war drums are being thumped again over Iran.) Getting rid of Blair would be the optimal solution, which the Labour Party will no doubt do within a couple of months. But for now, Blair appears to have settled for the next best thing, which is axing Straw, the man who more than any other figure in the British government personifies Blair’s intimacy with the Bush administration. The Guardian’s Ewen McAskill also sees Iran as the reason for Straw’s demotion, although he sees the motivation as quite the opposite: Straw had made clear his opposition to a military strike on Iran, and had told the British public that such a strike was “inconceivable.” Blair, ever faithful to the reckless instincts of the Bush administration, doesn’t agree. (And, of course, like Bush, Blair won’t have to answer to his electorate when his mentor in Washington once again sets the East ablaze.)

P.S. Actually, the more I read about the tension between Blair and Straw over Iran (and in light of echoes of Bernard’s comment below), the more I’m inclined to see Straw’s axing as based on the fact that’s he’s a dissenter from the Bush administration hard line. If it was simply a response to public opinion, he wouldn’t have been pulled off the job at this critical moment in the Iran diplomacy — if Straw rather than Margaret Beckett had gone the foreign ministers’ meeting in New York on Monday, the Germans would have had important backing in their bid to bridge the U.S. and Sino-Russian positions. Now, instead, Britain will likely simply fall into line behind Washington.

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7 Responses to Why Jack Straw Lost his Job

  1. Rumor has it that the White House called No.10 several times to complain about Jack Straw. Blair got the hint.

    Blair’s days are now numbered. I wouldn’t worry about him. Tony might lose Westminster but he can get a second life in the other Westminster, you know, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I see him “Best In Show” in the lapdog breed!

  2. britwrit says:

    Of course, given this government, you can’t really count out personal pettiness as part of a motive. After all, for the last few years, the one real dynamic driving Blair to stay on is that he really, really hates Gordon Brown (and vice versa). From what I’ve heard, the thing that sealed Straw’s fate was the PR trip Condi Rice took to the north of England at the behest of the foreign secretary. It got a lot of headlines, mostly positive, and made Straw look pretty good. And we all know that Tony’s the coolest in the class…

  3. markus says:

    There’s an interesting point over at Chicken Yoghurt about how, when he’s asked about bombing Iran, Blair keeps denying he’s going to be invading Iran. So, as ChickYog points out: “It’s a hard rains going to fall”.

  4. Tony says:

    Has Blair completely lost his mind? What’s the day-after scenario: They drop a whole lot of bombs on Iranian air defenses and known nuclear sites — hundreds, even thousands of Iranians are killed. Iran retaliates by some combination of firing medium range missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq; initiating via its allies and proxies in Iraq a mass urban insurrection demanding an end to the U.S. presence; firing missiles or striking via proxies and special forces at the Saudi oil fields, and initiating a series of high-impact terror strikes on U.S. targets in the unlikeliest places (think Latin America, for example). Etc. Any one or two of these actions would demand further U.S. retaliation, and you’d have a hot war raging over a substantial chunk of the world’s oil reserves. You’d think with the Brits having their own “Blackhawk Down” moment in Basra last weekend that he’d be a little more prudent.

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