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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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Jack Straw v RA Butler

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 12:22 pm
I thought it looked unlikely when Adam Boulton in his Sky blog described Jack Straw as

the longest-serving British cabinet minister since Gladstone.

It seemed almost as unlikely when the Evening Standard described him as

the longest-serving Cabinet minister since Lloyd George.

Boulton is obviously wrong, because Lord Salisbury was Prime Minister for 13 and a half years until 1902. As is the Evening Standard, because Churchill was a cabinet minister for about 18 years even before he became Prime Minister for another eight and a half.

But perhaps they mean cabinet ministers who were never Prime Minister. In which case they come up against RA Butler (above right, with Straw in 1978, when Butler was still alive), who was in the Cabinet for two months as a member of the caretaker government in 1945 and then for the entire "13 wasted years" of the Conservative governments from October 1951 until October 1964.

Sorry, Jack.



I seem to recall . .
quietzapple wrote:
Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 01:06 pm (UTC)
"Amid various younger politicians Jack Straw may well be happy to have remained in the cabinet for so long. Few ever have."

His son whinging that he was demoted to Leader of the House was out of order in my view.
Re: I seem to recall . .
david_boothroyd wrote:
Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 02:14 pm (UTC)
I would offer you Lord Hailsham as the longest serving cabinet minister before Jack Straw. He served in the Cabinet from January 1957 to October 1964, from June 1970 to March 1974, and from May 1979 to June 1987 - a total of 19 years 7 months.

The Minister whom Jack Straw has just passed is Kenneth Clarke - in the cabinet continuously from September 1985 to May 1997 - but should there be a Conservative government he may well return and add to his time.
Possibly he means continuous service?
matgb wrote:
Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 11:53 pm (UTC)
Straw's been in the Cabinet since '97, same as Brown and, IIRC, Darling.

Coming up to 13 years continuous, that's unusual and impressive. All those you list had breaks in their service.

However, I really can't be arsed to go digging and find out record continuous service...
See also ...
j_rentoul wrote:
Sunday, 24 January 2010 at 10:07 am (UTC)
Working Class Tory, who points out that Michael Heseltine is the most recent comparator, with a total of 14 years to 1997:
quietzapple wrote:
Sunday, 24 January 2010 at 01:03 pm (UTC)
Should there be a hung parliament it is not impossible that Straw might become PM to round off his service.

One way or another I hope he achieves progress towards a Bill of Rights, which he has suggested will take 10 years or so to enact.


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