Probably the second most right wing Home Secretary Britain has ever known; only Michael Howard comes out ahead, and he was an unmistakeable bigot whose disdain for civil liberties was second to none. After coming into power as New Labour's Home Secretary under Tony Blair, Jack Straw proposed and promoted a wide range of authoritarian legislation: Measures to 'fast track' young offenders into prison; an Asylum Bill even more restrictive than that they had inherited from the Tories, which had been widely denounced as racist in intention and effect but was loved by the tabloid press; curfews on children in many areas; a Police Act which removes the need for judicial authority for phone tapping and various other checks on police intrusions; a Terrorism Act which broadened the definition of 'terrorism' to include interference with an electronic system, causing serious damage to property or promoting any such 'terrorist' actions - by wearing a T-shirt or badge, perhaps; legislation to remove the right to trial by jury for many defendants; and so on, and so on.

Jack Straw also refused to give an inch on the issue of cannabis prohibition in his time as Home Secretary, in spite of the massive shift of opinion against it, both among the public at large and in the press - even the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph declared that it was time for the law to change - and in spite of his son, William Straw being caught selling a draw to a Mirror Reporter, and his brother Ed Straw being named in at least one article as an enthusiastic pot-head who sold the occasional draw in his youth, thirty-odd years ago.

After the UK General Election 2001 Jack Straw was replaced as Home Secretary by David Blunkett, formerly Education Secretary, who many expect to be just as bad. Jack Straw is now Foreign Secretary.

Also: A Jacks draw, pronounced 'Jack Straw,' is the amount of draw you can get for a jacks.

Jack Straw
Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Bob Weir

Reprinted with permissions copyright Ice Nine Publishing
Grateful Dead Recordings
Date Album
26 Apr 1972 Hundred Year Hall
3 May 1972 Europe '72 (note 2)
19 Oct 1973 Dick's Picks Vol 19
15 Mar 1990 Terrapin Station (Limited Edition)
Dead-related recordings
Date Album Recorded By
1985 Live '85 Robert Hunter
Dec 1990 Box Of Rain Robert Hunter
1991 Deadicated Bruce Hornsby
27 Oct 1995 Furthur Festival Bruce Hornsby (with Bob Weir)
22 Jul 1998 The Strange Remain The Other Ones

First performance: October 19, 1971, at Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota.

We can share the women, we can share the wine
We can share what we got of yours, 'cause we done shared all of mine
Keep on rolling, just a mile to go
Keep on rolling, my old buddy, you're moving much too slow

I just jumped the watchman right outside the fence
Took his rings, four bucks in change, ain't that heaven sent
Hurts my ears to listen, Shannon, burns my eyes to see
Cut down a man in cold blood, Shannon, might as well be me

We used to play for silver now we play for life (note 1)
And one's for sport, and one's for blood at the point of a knife
And now the die has shaken, now the die must fall
There ain't a winner in the game
He don't go home with all, not with all

Leaving Texas, fourth day of July
Sun so hot, the clouds so low, the eagles filled the sky
Catch the Detroit Lightning out of Santa Fe
The Great Northern out of Cheyenne, from sea to shining sea

Gotta go to Tulsa, first train we can ride
Gotta settle one old score, one small point of pride
There ain't a place a man can hide, Shannon, will keep him from the sun
Ain't a bed can give us rest now, you keep us on the run

Jack Straw from Wichita cut his buddy down
And dug for him a shallow grave, and laid his body down
Half a mile from Tucson, by the morning light
One man gone and another to go
My old buddy you're moving much too slow

We can share the women we can share the wine

(1) at times in 1978 and 1979 Bob Weir sang "We used to play for acid ..." and "... now we play for Clive" (a reference to Clive Davis, the boss of Arista Records, who had at that time signed the Dead)

An earlier Jack Straw was a peasant from Essex, one of the leaders, with Wat Tyler and John Ball, of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. They intended to meet King Richard II at Blackheath but he backed out of the meeting, and they entered London, sacking the Savoy Palace and the St John's Hospital in Clerkenwell.

Nothing seems to be known about Straw as a person, though his name is famous; a John Rackstraw is also mentioned in accounts of the revolt, and it is possible they are the same. It has even been suggested that he was a mere by-name for Wat Tyler: the word jackstraw could have meant straw man, i.e. something like an effigy or scarecrow, a suitable word for a pseudonym. It had this meaning several centuries later in Milton. Also, some ballads and tales say Straw was killed by Walworth at Smithfield, which is what actually happened to Tyler.

There is a pub in Hampstead, north London, called Jack Straw's Castle, which no doubt would like you to believe it was named for some ancient event involving the peasant leader; but it wasn't. The poet Thom Gunn wrote a volume called Jack Straw's Castle in 1976.

The Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott (1929- ) wrote an overture Jack Straw in 1964.

There is a novel The Confession of Jack Straw by Simone Zelitch, her first novel.

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