John Whitaker Straw (born 3 August 1946) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Blackburn since 1979. He served as Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001, Foreign Secretary from 2001 to 2006 and Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons from 2006 to 2007 under Tony Blair. From 2007-2010 he was the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and the Secretary of State for Justice, appointed as part of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's first Cabinet. Straw is one of only three people to have served in Cabinet continuously from 1997 to 2010 (the others being Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling).
When the Labour Party lost power in May 2010, he briefly became the Shadow Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and the Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, but stood down from the frontbench after the Labour Party elected a new Shadow Cabinet.
Straw was born in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, England; one of his great-grandfathers was a German Jewish immigrant. Straw was brought up at Loughton, Essex by his mother, Joan Sylvia Gilbey on a council estate after his father Walter Arthur Whitaker Straw, an insurance salesman and the son of Arthur Whitaker Straw, left the family and condemned them to poverty. He was educated at Staples Road School, Loughton, and then boarded at Brentwood School, at that time a direct grant grammar school with largely LEA supported pupils, (where he was already expressing political ambitions and took the name "Jack", allegedly after the 14th century peasant leader Jack Straw—although "Jack" is a common diminutive of "John") and read law at the University of Leeds. While he was at Brentwood he opted out of the compulsory CCF (combined cadet force) on conscientious grounds.