Jack Straw Should Be In Jail

by craig on June 4, 2007 2:00 pm in Straw Man

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…for starting an illegal war of aggression. But bringing justice to Bush, Blair and their criminal crew will be an uphill struggle. In the meantime we had Jack Straw bang to rights on a lesser – but still serious – crime.

On 24 April 2005, in an election rally in Jack Straw’s Blackburn Constituency, over one hundred Blackburn electors were given a full free meal by the Labour party, with Jack Straw present, having just made an election speech to the lucky partakers of this generosity.

Every reader involved in electoral politics will know that this is a criminal offence under the Representation of the People Act, formally known as “Treating” – the provision of free food and drink to electors in an attempt to influence their vote. Conviction leads to forfeiture of the election, banning from public office and a prison sentence of up to two years.

It is also an offence of strict liability – a candidate is liable even if it was organised by someone else on his behalf. A candidate is viewed in law as responsible for his campaign. But in this instance, Jack Straw was actually present.

There was no shortage of witnesses – protestors were ringing the hall. The police were actually providing protection for this criminal event, and showed no interest in the fact that the proceeding was illegal. Jack Straw runs Blackburn as a personal fiefdom.

I therefore went to a police station and made a formal complaint. This obliged the police to investigate, and to do them justice, the detectives of Lancashire Police did a very good job, establishing the facts of the incident. They then sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Crown Prosecution Service returned the file to Lancashire Police, saying that the offence was “Trivial” and there would be no prosecution. As this was one of the worst examples of large scale electoral treating since it was made a criminal offence in 1832, presumably this means the CPS has decided that the law on treating has fallen into desuetude, and candidates may now provide food and drink to electors.

Or only New Labour ministers?

I am not expecting any brave decisions by the CPS in the Cash for Honours scandal.

The copy of the invite above is from a rather tatty photocopy I was given. But I have seen an original, and the copy is genuine.

See also: Straw accused of currying favour

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13 Comments

  1. Chuck Unsworth

    4 Jun, 2007 - 4:49 pm

    The trouble with all of these quangos, government departments, local authorities etc is that they never, never explain what the reasons for their arbitrary decisions may be. Time and again cack-handed or, worse, dishonest decisions are made without anyone being held to account.

    Personally I believe that all of these 'public servants' – and how laughable is that term – should be publicly named and asked to account for their decisions and actions. We'd certainly see a little more care and attention to detail then.

    So, who in the CPS made that decision and on what basis? It's not up to these people to decide which laws are applicable and which not. It's up to the judiciary to make that choice. Since when has the CPS been an arm of the judiciary or is it, as so often demonstrated recently, a surrogate or quasi legal system? This particular decision should now be subject to legal review.

  2. The BBC did a story on this:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6519117.st

    "A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said it would be up to a court to decide whether food provided at a meeting counted as an illegal inducement to vote – or not vote – or were merely 'incidental'."

    Looks like it will be quite some time before a court gets an opportunity to decide on this if the CPS block the prosecutions as trivial.

    There was a question in the Lords recently on this, with a very brief answer!
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2007-03-2

  3. hatfield girl

    4 Jun, 2007 - 5:57 pm

    Watching from a distance, Britain is conforming quite closely to the historical pattern for the formation of an authoritarian corporatist state. This is unsurprising as the ruling junta is backed by a corporatist Labour party. Insofar as history never repeats etc., the present variations are fascinating – except:

    British people think their democracy robust and deeply-rooted, so dismiss what is under their noses, saying, the next election will sort everything out if it is unacceptable to the electorate.

    Democracy is fragile and of very recent planting, they are quite wrong in thinking otherwise.

    It has been their good fortune to live mostly under Conservative or, earlier, Liberal rule which, while being inegalitarian and not redistributive, tends to be libertarian and pluralist.

    I didn't want to be distanced so irreversibly by the speed of authoritarian corporatism's advance and entrenchment.

  4. "Democracy is fragile and of very recent planting, they are quite wrong in thinking otherwise."

    The British experience seems to me so far to have confirmed that democracy actively selects for the most effective liars, and gives rise to a corporatist system whereby the aforementioned best liars team up with the wealthy and otherwise powerful to ensure that the boat is not rocked.

    What makes you think that democracy should give rise to any better rule than any other system? The best argument I've seen has always been that democracy allows "the people" to chuck the bastards out every so often, without needing a revolution to do it. Seems to me Britain is currently demonstrating the falseness of that defence. We can't chuck out the smarmy elitist liars who currently rule the country because they run both the parties that have any chance at power, and also have fairly tight control of the media and establishment "commanding heights".

    I don't have a cure-all alternative system to propose in place of democracy, by the way. I just don't see that there is any reason to worship at Democracy's feet – that way you just end up giving the neo-cons excuses to continue claiming moral superiority over the rest of the world. The problem of powerfully selecting for the best liars is inherent to democracy (particularly exacerbated by modern communications technology), not a chance artifact of our particular system.

    Seems to me, though, it's not more democracy we want at all, but rather institutional checks and balances of the kind New Labour has been busily slashing away at in its characteristically vandalistic style for the last 10 years. Many of those institutions are (or were) inherently anti-democratic, and that is precisely what gave them their usefulness.

  5. Solidaritysupporter

    5 Jun, 2007 - 10:57 am

    Craig I agree with you on jailing Jack Straw and of course Blair Brown and the rest of them on war crimes as well as Straw for "treating".Incidentally have you noticed who was chairing the meeting one Mr Sarwar do you think he was related to Mohammed Sarwar MP for Govan one of whose sons is currently on trial for massive corruption in his fathers old company!

    Congratulations on your blog I have just discovered it and it is well written and informed.I am also as a result also reading your book on Uzbehkistan which is gripping.As a former MEP I well remember trying to raise the issue of human rights in Tibet only to be told by British ministers and the European Commission that "China is a very important economic growth area for the UK"

    Keep up the good work!

  6. Tonys Akiller

    5 Jun, 2007 - 11:11 am

    First off. You have a point. Rules were breached. But Craig, as I'm sure you know, there must be some flexibility in the law or society would be an utter Stepfordian nightmare. Flexibility in cases for example when people get hit with a fine of a few hundred for lobbing a cheesy wotsit out of the car (or their kids) or the poor person who is forced to steal food from a supermarket to survive.

    What you need to have done here is prove maliciousness/intent. You should have gotten the testimony of some people who felt the meal was for a vote or even better people reporting that Straw at the event quizzed in a haranguing way as to their voting intentions and so on.

    But such flexability must be fully transparent or else it WILL be abused. No doubts about that and its even if intent was proven, I think that we can predict that Straw would have wriggled free of consequence. After all, the law has clearly been perverted on a number of occasions already and people haven't demanded thos those things weren't simply ignored.

    Perhaps you've witnessed a reaping of what we've sown?

  7. Tonys Akiller,

    You don't have to prove that there was an explicit trade off of votes for meals. The law is drafted much more widely than that, and everyone in party politics knows it.

    This is from The Labour Party Legal Handbook:

    the Labour Party Legal Handbook 11.6 .Treating.?:

    The .treating. of electors is a corrupt practice … A person shall

    be guilty of .treating. if s/he … directly or indirectly provides

    any food, drink or entertainment, to influence that person to vote or

    refrain from voting at that election. Free food and drink should not

    be provided at public meetings or meetings of supporters.

  8. Solidarity supporter –

    It is indeed the same Mohammed Sarwar. Did the corruption involve any links to government procurement, or was it purely private sector?

  9. Mohammed Sarwar's charge doesn't seem to be related to procurement: "cleared of trying to bribe a rival candidate during the 1997 general election":
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/303647.stm

    Sarwar is having an unlucky time lately, his son has recently been convicted of money laundering ?850,000 related to VAT carousel fraud in a company that had split off from the family business in 2002 according to the BBC & Scotsman:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_w
    http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=81170200

    The company involved seems a bit unclear though, as
    http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2007/05/24/sarwa

    says it was at "United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd", of which Mohammed Sarwar was a director until 1 November 2005, and is still a shareholder, according to the register of members interests:
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/regmem/?p=10528
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmreg

  10. … and another interesting comment is from a Clydesdale Bank press release (21 February 2005), which suggests Mohammed Ramzan (the MP father) is "taking charge of United Wholesale Scotland", which according to the Channel Register report appears to be the company involved in the VAT carousel fraud money laundering:
    http://www.cbonline.co.uk/0,,62356,00.html

    "UWG was founded 25 years ago by current managing director Mohammed Ramzan and his brother Mohammed Sarwar, who went on to make history when he was elected Britain's first Muslim MP by winning the Govan seat for Labour in 1997. He increased his majority in the 2001 election.

    The brothers split the UWG business in 2002, Sarwar taking charge of UWS (United Wholesale Scotland), another cash and carry company, and Ramzan leading a firm retaining the previous name. The two companies now have no direct connection."
    http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2007/05/24/sarwa

    "[Athif] Sarwar was found guilty of laundering various sums of money between 24 February and 25 April 2003 while working as a cash-and-carry manager at United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd …

    The money or "criminal property" was said to have been received by Sarwar who then electronically transferred the cash into the firm's business account."

    The media don't seem to have picked up on these links, so maybe there is a flaw somewhere in the reporting. Hmm.

  11. Enforcement of the Treating law is clearly tenuous. Embarrassing Blair or Straw on the waste of public money (ie on Iraq occupation costs) should be more fruitful.

    ie how much UK money went to British private contractors (in Iraq) who had connections to Blair's party.

    Pete

  12. Tonys Akiller

    6 Jun, 2007 - 7:44 am

    Craig. Yes it is corrupt. I wholeheartedly agree but given that it was dismissed as trivial, surely you DO have to make that link, even if the law doesn't specifically require it. They could not then dismiss it so easily. I believe the triviality of it is becasue they simply think that New Labour were being generous, despite what the law says.

    Actually, strictness of law SHOULD be applied to the letter when it comes to the establishment and civil service. This is not a poor man stealing from a large shop. It's a war criminal gaining a mandate to continue his crimes.

    Press ahead with it. I think you have a good case. Push the CPS for a statement as to why it was deemed trivial, on what grounds etc… Get testimony from anyone who was there if you can.

    I wish you success.

  13. NO!!!

    Jack Straw should be in jail for perverting the course of justice. He should also be in jail for misconduct in public office.

    He's done far worse things than give out free food – much worse than that. So have his buddies.

    Pedophilia is still a crime in this country, isn't it? So if an elected MP knows that a crime is being committed but will not lift a finger to do anything about it, even if it is CLEARLY pointed out to him, is that not misconduct in public office?

    He was banging his gums in Parliament about this today, trying to chuck big stones at Damian Green, saying about how long the jail sentance is for it. He ought to reflect on what he's done before he chucks rocks at the like as Damian Green, because it's like nothing compared to what Straw is guilty of!

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