Jack Straw rules out leadership bid, expresses 'relief' at defeat
Jack Straw admits `relief` at collapse of Labour-Liberal Democrat deal and rules out standing for leadership of party
Thursday, 13, May 2010 09:49
By Matthew Champion.
Jack Straw has admitted his "relief" at Labour falling into opposition for the first time in 13 years as he ruled out standing to succeed Gordon Brown as leader of the party.
Mr Straw, the former justice secretary, held a senior Cabinet position for the entire 13 years of New Labour rule.
Writing in the Times the Blackburn MP echoed comments from other senior figures in his party by saying he was relieved a coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats never got off the ground, which paved the way for Nick Clegg's party to enter government hand-in-hand with David Cameron's Conservatives instead.
Mr Straw said that "it doesn't work" between Labour and the Lib Dems, revealing that the "chemistry" was never there between the two parties.
"We did have a responsibility to discuss a deal," he wrote. "It would have been irresponsible not to. But, almost certainly, it could never have succeeded. This was partly arithmetic - even with them we were eight short of a bare majority. Our existence would have been hand to mouth - far worse than the 1974-79 Labour government (for which I was a special adviser), in which we had a base of 60 more seats than do we today.
"There is probably more common ground between Labour and the Liberal Democrats than between them and the Conservatives, although big stumbling blocks arose on quite a number of policy matters. Abandoning long-settled policy positions from government is much more difficult than from the virginity of opposition."
Mr Straw added: "Many in the House, including me, and outside would have found a coalition difficult to stomach. There is also the view that many Liberal Democrats are rather anxious about power, and joined a party whose core business for generations (at least until this week) has been opposition."
Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Mr Straw, regarded as the great survivor of New Labour having, ruled out joining the leadership contest that so far has only one declared candidate in David Miliband.
"I've had my 13th year on the front bench, 23 years since I was first elected to the shadow cabinet so I've had a good innings," he said. "No one can persuade me."
Former foreign secretary Mr Miliband is expected to face challenges from his brother Ed Miliband, the former climate change secretary, former children's secretary Ed Balls, former health secretary Andy Burnham and prominent backbencher Jon Cruddas.
Deputy leader Harriet Harman has already ruled out standing, as has former home secretary Alan Johnson, who endorsed David Miliband's candidacy before it was even declared.