By Ray Fleming

AND then there were two... With Jack Straw's announcement yesterday of his intention to resign from Labour's shadow cabinet and Alistair Darling's reported similar intention there are now only two members of Gordon Brown's cabinet left standing -- Harriet Harman and Alan Johnson. Harman will presumably remain at her post of deputy leader even though Parliament is not sitting; the need for government and opposition to consult occasionally on urgent issues means that someone has to be available to do so. Johnson is involved in the leadership contest which ends on September 25. It must be a very, very long time since either of Britain's leading parties was as thinly manned as Labour is today.

Jack Straw has been a cabinet or shadow cabinet member since 1997, serving continuously for thirteen years. He became something of a man for all seasons -- starting as Home Secretary and moving to the Foreign Office just as the Iraq war drums were beginning to be heard. Later, after a spell as Leader of the House, he became Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary.

As Foreign Secretary in 2003 he was unable to persuade the UN Security Council to pass a resolution authorising an invasion of Iraq; he nonetheless supported the unilateral action taken by Britain and the United States. Being in the thick of the Iraq crisis was, Mr Straw told the Chilcot inquiry recently, a “profoundly difficult political and moral dilemma”.

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