Always a political animal, the current Home Secretary made his first political speech at 13, joined the party at 15, going on to be a left-wing president of the National Union of Students.
He gave up the law to become special adviser to Barbara Castle, social services secretary and inherited her Blackburn seat in 1979.
From 1987 he had a busy time as Kenneth Baker's shadow. During this period, he pre-empted the Tories by proposing testing at seven, 11, 14 and 16; and favouring local management of schools, but not total opting out.
Should he succeed David Blunkett, teachers might note that in 1990 he favoured annual appraisal. "Good teachers should be honoured and rewarded, bad tachers should be identified and sacked," he said.
Mr Straw was governor of his children's school, Pimlico in London, where he courted controversy by calling for a dress code for teachers and supporting a private finance deal to rebuild the "brutalist" 1960s building. A vote of no confidence forced him to resign as chair in November 1998.
Born 1946, Essex
Educated: Brentwood School, Essex; Leeds University (LLB); Inns of Court Law School
1969-71: president of NUS
1972: Called to the Bar, Inner Temple
1974-76: Special adviser to Barbara Castle, social services secretary
1971-78: Islington councillor
1971-74: member, then deputy leader, ILEA
1979-: Labour MP for Blackburn
1987-92: shadow education secretary
1994-7: shadow home secretary
1997-: Home Secretary