Jack Straw Treating Again 76

I am in Blackburn on the trail of Jack Straw. Yesterday I spoke to several hundred local Muslims at a Blackburn fundraiser for CagePrisoners. I told them very directly that it was no good their salving their consciences by donating, if they then again gave their votes to the man who gave the green light to British cooperation with the extraordinary rendition policy, and who overruled the Foreign Office legal advisers to launch an illegal war in Iraq.

While I was doing that, Jack Straw was committing a lesser but still very important crime. He was “Treating”. Yesterday Straw fed 700 constituents with curry, nan, dessert, tea and coffee at Jan’s Conference Centre at an election rally in Blackburn .

Every political candidate and agent knows that this is illegal. It is a specific criminal offence known as “Treating”. It carries a jail sentence and disqualification for the candidate.

Precisely the same thing happened, at precisely the same venue, at the last general election. I swore out a complaint to the police,but no action was taken.


The extraordinary thing was that, not only was the criminal offence carried out in an open and blatant manner, but this criminal offence was actually aided and abetted by the police. Jack Straw arrived not only with his close protection officers but with escorting police officers who actually guarded the criminal act.

From the Electoral Commission’s Guidance:


A person is guilty of the corrupt practice of treating if they corruptly, directly or

indirectly, either before, during or after an election, give or provide (or pay wholly or

in part the expense of giving or providing) any food, drink, entertainment or provision

in order to corruptly influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting.


I genuinely despair of the deep-seated corruption of this country where a Cabinet minister is enabled repeatedly to break the law in this way.

It is worth noting that an independent candidate, Bushra Irfan, was reported to the police by the returning officer for an internet page that suggested that food would be given at a meeting. Irfan’s campaign apologised and removed the offending page; no food was given. However Jack Straw was able to actually give out seven hundred meals under the noses of the police, with not a word said by the Returning Officer, who by law should now disqualify him. A criminal trial should follow.

I have wriiten widely about the amazing corruption of the electoral process in Blackburn and its corrupt administration by Blackburn Council. I had hoped that this scrutiny might be sufficient to force them to behave more honestly. But theyareso arrogant and bressnecked in their power here, they really don’t give a damn about the law,


76 thoughts on “Jack Straw Treating Again

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  • MJ

    From the wording of the guidance it would appear that the matter isn’t quite as straightforward as you suggest. Treating becomes an offence only if it is “in order to corruptly influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting”.

    OK, it’s difficult to imagine what other purpose it could have but at least there is an arguable point. However, any mitigation raised by the Straw camp could equally be put forward by Bushra Irfan, who might have been wise to continue with her hospitality as advertised and use any legal proceedings to highlight Straw’s far more brazen flouting of the rules.

  • Craig


    You have to look at the context of why the law was made and at the case law. Giving out free food at an election campaign meeting is always taken as treating. It is plain as a pikestaff that this is precisely the behaviour which the law was introduced to outlaw.

    The truth of the matter is that if Jack Straw does it nothing happens, but if another candidate did it they would certainly be arrested and probably jailed.

  • glenn

    Surely the only way this might _not_ be in order to corruptly influence any voter, would be if this were such an everyday event, that nobody would consider it a favour marking any particular occasion. Does this sort of thing happen routinely, or is this favour conferred only immediately before every general election?

  • Craig

    Does Jan’s Conference Centre routinely provide free food to hundreds of people? Err, no.

  • Abe Rene

    Why not test this by giving out packets of crisps or Mars bars at a Put an Honest Man into Parliament rally in Dismore’s constituency, let the Press know, and insist on trial by jury if the police decide to arrest or prosecute?

  • glenn

    I’m surprised the other candidates in Blackburn don’t make a case with the police, returning officer, and Electoral Commission just to start with. Surely these other candidates have more standing on this concern than anyone else.

    Do we know for sure who paid for it all? 700 meals would put a dent in anyone’s wallet, even for one who had become enriched while acting as a “New” Labour minister. Straw personally?

  • John Bishop

    According to the Electoral Commission, there were only four cases of any sort of corrupt influence in the 2009 and 2008 elections, and that is a wider category than treating.


    Also, the same EC document says that treating must be done not merely “to influence voters to vote or to refrain from voting” but also “with corrupt intent”.

    So it sounds like it’s quite a hard offence to prove – but obviously an easy one to allege.

  • John D. Monkey


    Best of luck in trying to get the mainstream media to report this.

    I’m not a betting man but I’d risk a small wager that none of the press will even mention it…and anyone who links to it on any BBC or Guardian blog will be moderated out.

  • mrjohn

    This is rather timely for Mr Straw


    “Pilot Lotfi Raissi wins up to £2m compensation for 9/11 accusation

    An Algerian-born pilot is likely to receive compensation of up to £2 million after having been wrongly accused of training the 9/11 terrorists.

    Lotfi Raissi was told yesterday by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, that he was eligible for a payout.

    Mr Raissi has been fighting for compensation for six years after his arrest ten days after the terror attacks in September 2001.”

  • Jon

    Quite O/T but the Guardian reports today that the Lib Dems are reaching out to the Tories in an early attempt at coalition building. This is a good way for the LDs to piss off any of their reluctant progressive voters, and wonder if there is anything that party members (or potential LD voters) can say en masse to discourage Clegg from this path. Craig, what do you make of this?

    The LD position on Afghanistan is bad enough, and I think they’re leaning to the right with the political wind generally. They’re not progressive enough on Trident and they’re sometimes using regressive language on matters of economy and immigration (sensible amnesty notwithstanding). Bending to Tory policy surely makes matters worse, doesn’t it?

  • Iain Orr

    I have asked the Electoral Commission how I can complain about “treating”. If anyone suggests that I have no reason to complain since my vote is not in the Blackburn and Darwen constituency, my reply would be that electoral corruption benefits political parties, not just individual candidates. My vote in Lewisham West and Penge aims to reduce the chances of having to suffer another corruptible Labour government; I have a direct interest in Labour candidates in any constituency not being able to use corrupt practices to get elected.

    Examples of the dishonourable tradition of treating can be found in the 1956 anthology edited by Herbert George Nicholas “To the hustings – election scenes from English fiction”.

  • Anonymous

    They (opposition) hold all the cards. Yes it is terrible, but i learnt long ago that the police are a political force and are there to protect the rich and powerful, hence why none have been decently charged. Police taking action surely ye JEST.

  • phil

    its funny that you should post this today.

    I was using your very example from the last election of Jack Straws “treating” to explain to a colleague from India what safeguards there are meant to be in order to stop this bribing of the public to vote for themselves. I tehn had to explain about how the resturnign officer though is from the party that is in power and in rotten bourghs like blackburn any complaints are ignored. he wasn’t suprised unfortunatley after living in this country for 4 years.

  • Vronsky

    My ruthlessly boring mind suggests a strategy. Ask the LD candidate to propose a similar free lunch and then report him to the Returning Officer. Surely it must be win-win – either you get a ruling that it’s not allowed, or you buy a lot of Muslim votes with a few baskets of pakora.

  • Craig

    John Bishop,

    Would you like to posit an alternative motive for giving free meals at an election rally?

  • mary

    An excellent commentary on the ‘election’ campaign from John Hilley, a Scot who contributes to Medialens.


    Don’t mention the wars…..

    Election Glasgow South: Tom Harris and other party warmongers

    Don’t mention the wars. Yes, I know, it’s another (pluralised) use of a tired cliche. But it seems the most apt way of referencing the dark issue being drowned out by the current election noise on Cam-Brown-Cleggability.

  • brian

    Could other candidates carry out a civil action in the courts, after all some genuine and non-corrupt candidate is being deprived of 5 years of a nice salary, ridiculously good pension and still juicy exes.

  • MJ

    Craig: a strict reading of the rather bizarrely-worded rule suggests that, provided you do not “corruptly” attempt to persuade the recipients of your largesse either to vote or not vote, then you’re in the clear.

    There’s nothing to say you can’t merely extol the virtues of your own party or rubbish the others.

  • glenn

    MJ: Surely providing meals and sundry largess IS a corrupt attempt to persuade the intentions of voters?

    There’s nothing wrong with someone attempting to “extol the virtues of your own party or rubbish the others”, granted, but you don’t get to do that while shoving £10 notes into their pockets. Or giving them meals for that matter.

    It’s tough to come up with an interpretation of the rule which doesn’t mean exactly that.

  • Jon

    Hmm, back on topic, what are Straw’s major opponents doing about this?

    And what sort of person would change their vote if you bought them a curry?

  • Doug Allanson

    I think we’re all missing the point here. Ole Jack is only sticking true to his credentials. He has always been a careerist who would set fire to his own tail to get elected. I always thought he was in favour of the Iraq war until I read Andrew Rawnsley who says he knew it was a dogs dinner and only orchestrated it for five years because otherwise he would get the sack.

    Ole Jack is just following in the footsteps of the Duke of Newcastle who used to do this ‘Treating’ stuff for about thirty years in the eighteenth century, and got in government after government.

    Its a tradition

  • Suhayl Saadi

    ‘Trick or treat?’ Or both, perhaps…

    Kissing babies, hugging OAPs, dishing-out ladles of liquid at sundry soup-kitchens. Sending armies off to murder and maim. What’s new?

    Jon, it depends on the curry (!)

  • Abe Rene

    If it’s mass-produced curry from a certain supermarket, that’s not treating, it’s attempted poisoning. Mind you it could count as an over-enthusiastic treatment for constipation, depending on the events of the next two hours.

  • MJ

    “Surely providing meals and sundry largess IS a corrupt attempt to persuade the intentions of voters?”

    As worded the offence is not in persuading voters how to vote, it is in persuading them whether to vote or not.

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