Straw a happy man despite ‘demotion’

Matthew d’Ancona interviews the former British Foreign Secretary (that comes with the plushest private offices in Whitehall) Jack Straw in the more modest surroundings of the Leader of the Commons. But that appears to be somewhat deceptive, since:

…the office of Leader of the House has been considerably beefed up. He will be responsible for Lords reform and the promised overhaul of party funding, cleaning up the system and generally reinvigorating the polity. In short, the 59-year-old MP for Blackburn — the student firebrand turned elder statesman — has become New Labour’s ‘trust tsar’.

It looks like Straw’s taking on some of the duties that Prescott lost from his post as Deputy Prime Minister. It looks too as if the succession is already in train:

Everybody knows that Tony will go, go well before the next election; that unless something astonishing happens, which I’m not anticipating, that Gordon is his successor. And he deserves it, let me say — that’s why there’d be great consensus around him — and both of them understand the importance of focusing on policy.’

He goes on to argue for a wholly elected chamber, saying those subject to indirect elections often get caught up in ‘endless arguments about the legitimacy of the electoral college’ (a note to the would be Seanad reformers).

He finishes on Iraq, and the argument that Colin Powell lost with the White House:

‘I will never forget attending a lunch for the Security Council during one of those five meetings we had of the Security Council between January and March [2003] — I think it was the 14 February one — and [Colin] said to people round the table, “Look, we may have military action, but the Americans are good nation-builders. That’s what we did after the war in the East with Japan. That’s what we did” — he looked at Joschka Fischer, who was on the Security Council at the time — “with Germany and that’s what we’ll do again with Iraq.” And then what happened is that he and the State Department lost out in the argument over who should have responsibility for reconstruction. And they had done a great deal of work, the State Department, on this.’