Reader survey: Jack Straw

There has been a lot of ink used on Jack Straw’s comments about what Muslims should and shouldn’t wear.  The Daily’s team is not clever enough to get involved in the rights and wrongs of Islamic theology, but we are interested in Straw and the Labour Party.

So here’s the first The Daily Reader Survey.  Answers in the comments section to the following:

1) Is Jack using this issue to raise his profile ahead of a deputy leader bid?

2) Is the controversy helping or harming his chances of being Labour’s next deputy leader?

3) Does raising this issue go down well, or badly, with candidates for the leadership like Brown and Reid?

10 Responses to Reader survey: Jack Straw

  1. Patrick H says:

    1. While I’ve no doubt that the issue is close to Jack’s heart, and that he obviously comes into contact with the niqab more than most, the terrible timing (straight after Reid’s “come and have a go” shouting match and the windsor nutjobs going off on one) suggests motives rather more personal than anything else. So “yes”.

    2. Helping. Despite our self-image as internationalist lefties, there remains a sizeable minority of the Labour membership with some rather dodgy attitudes. Whether Jack means to be appealing to the racist wing of the party or not is doubtful, his comments will certainly appeal to those similar to a man at my local branch who told me last week “I don’t like immigrants. They’re just taking our lads’ jobs”.

    3. Not sure. He’s stealing Reid’s thunder, but in more Straw-like measured terms than Reid could ever manage. Meanwhile, Brown’s drum-banging on Britishness might seem consistent with Straw’s comments. I guess that Brown might be happier to endorse Straw than Reid would, but I’m afraid I really don’t have an informed opinion.

  2. Matthew says:

    1) Jack is not stupid, he knows what he is doing. Maybe it is a coincidence that Parliament comes back next week and the lobbying for nominations starts in ernest, but even if it is a coincidence, I can’t believe that the benefit he’d get from this outburst wouldn’t have crossed his mind.

    2) Helping, gutted to say it, but almost definitely helping. And not just among the nuttier elements of Labour’s members – I would have thought there is a sizeable chunk of MPs who will be in agreement with Jack’s comments.

    3) It obviously chimes with Reid’s “who dares, abuses” speech at conference, but I would have thought that Brown will be a bit worried by all this. It does seem a little OTT for Brown to be happy about it.

  3. Gregg says:

    1) Yes. Although another possibility occurs to me: having moved closer to Brown in recent years, and having ben somewhat smeared by Reid, he could be preparing for a run as a spoiler candidate in the leadership, to bleed away Reid’s base amongst authoritarian party members.
    2) Harming. After earning a reputation as a moderate elder statesman close to the membership, he’s now reminded everyone in the party what he was like as Home Secretary; why he got nicknamed “Jack Boots”, banned from countless student unions and reglarly booed at Labour events. Like Reid and Johnson on the leadership and Hain and Johnson (again) on the deputy leadership, he thinks he can get adopted as the media’s candidate and so party and union members will vote for him despite not liking him. He (and they) are wrong.
    3) No idea, but see above answers.

  4. yes. says:

    yes to all.

  5. thomas says:

    Jack is thinking what Richard Littlejohn is thinking.

  6. Nick says:

    1) I really hope not but I fear so. He must have realised that this would get picked up from the local paper by the nationals when he wrote it. What he said wasn’t quite as incendiary as some of the reporting has made out, but he must have realised that would happen as well.

    2) Both. It will harm him among most (but not all) MPs, party and union activists who mainly the ones watching at the moment. That will make it hard for any campaign to pick up momentum and active support. However, it will appeal to the media, raise his general profile which was being eclipsed by the other candidates and go down well among a lot of trade union members and a certain segment of the party membership. He may be struggling for traction and need to find a base from somewhere more than he needs wider appeal at the moment. Overall I’ve always doubted he could win and I still do – this may be intended to get him the race but it won’t help him actually win.

    3) Hard to say – I can’t see Brown necessarily taking too well to this, it’s just not the sort of theme he will want the leadership contest to be about. You can see Reid maybe agreeing though.

    One other thing is the reactions of his deputy leadership rivals – I’ve noticed Hain has sharply come out against his remarks, particularly on how he handles people at his surgeries; I was at a meeting with Harman yesterday and she asked the audience what they thought but cleverly avoided giving her views.

  7. 1) An unquivocal ‘yes’.

    Although I’ve always been skeptical about his policies, I quite respected Straw on a personal level. Now, I don’t. Not because of his specific comments on the veil but because he knew full well that his comments would provide a vehicle for a torrent of vicious anti-Muslim press coverage.

    2) No chance before, no chance after.

    3) Reid’ll love it. The mythical Gordon Brown of comrades’ dream will be outraged. The real life Gordon Brown obviously doesn’t have political opinions in public so we won’t know until he either becomes PM or writes the bitter autobiography on his failure to become PM.

    I actually thought Harman’s position on this contained elements of sense.

    She did at least seem interested in the views of the women concerned, rather than just looking at the views of so-called community leaders and the readers poll in the Daily Express.

    Nice to see Hain’s back on the left this week.

  8. Sham says:

    1). Yes.
    Undoubtedly his profile has gone up in the past week, not just among the membership but crucially amongst the wider public.

    2). Helping.
    Personally speaking, I couldn’t think of a sound reason for voting for Straw before his comments. What he’s said isn’t crazy, or racist, or “Islamophobic”. Believe it or not, he’s actually standing up for Muslim women’s rights. Perhaps the time has come to follow the French and have a total ban on burqas and hijabs in schools. We’re never gonna have integration and equlity if people are marked out as being so blatantly different from such an early age.

    3). Not sure.
    It certainly turns up the heat on his rivals to stand up and be counted, to slap down extremism and stand firm over Iraq. Thus far only John Reid has stepped up to the plate …

  9. HenryG says:

    1. Yes – pathetic, entirely transparent

    2. Slightly harming – will do better with Labour supporters than members and trade unionists who are likely to be less than impressed

    3. Badly with both – Brown won’t like it because this isn’t his style at all, Reid won’t like the competition

    It’s stuff like this that absolutely demoralises most party activists. At a time when we need to rebuild the party and take on the BNP, Straw’s and Reid’s interventions make it harder to do both. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

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