Denis MacShane: yet another disgraced MP

Three years ago, Britain was scandalised by the Daily Telegraph’s exposure of MPs’ appalling – and in many cases criminal – expense claims. Duck houses, moats and phantom mortgages featured heavily.

We thought it was all in the past until Labour’s Denis MacShane was forced to resign today after a parliamentary committee found he had submitted 19 false invoices which were “plainly intended to deceive” Parliament’s expenses authority.

Judging from the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges’ report, MacShane shamelessly used taxpayers’ money to fund his personal and political interests. Bizarrely the police dropped an investigation into MacShane’s deceit for lack of evidence – let’s hope they read the parliamentary report, which will provide the evidence they were incapable of finding.

By coincidence, this week I’ve been reading Robert Winnett and Gordon Rayner’s book about the Telegraph’s 2009 expenses scoop, No Expenses Spared. The story of how MPs tried to keep the scandal secret is as shocking now as it was in 2009. The Telegraph deserves huge credit for the way it investigated more than a million expenses documents in a matter of weeks. My main reservation was that it focused only on Labour ministers for the first few days, giving the impression that this was a Labour scandal.

Meanwhile, here’s my blogpost from May 2009, written the evening MPs were being ripped to shreds by the BBC Question Time audience in one of the most compelling editions of that show. I pointed out that the MPs’ excuses were groundless. And here is my manifesto for a new politics in the wake of the expenses scandal.

2 thoughts on “Denis MacShane: yet another disgraced MP

  1. This case is a strange one. I tweeted yesterday saying that as someone who had trudged the streets of Rotherham to originally help Denis get elected in a by-election that I thought he should go. However, this case is different to the other expenses scandals as from what I understand (although it’s complex and still emerging), this wasn’t expenses fiddling for personal gain as it was done to fund campaigning and related activity on Europe and fighting racism. It doesn’t make what he did right, it simply makes it stupid and foolish from someone who should have known better. It is a shame that what was a fine parliamentary career has ended like this, because of acts of gross stupidity.

    Incidentally the reason the police dropped the case was that they didn’t have access to the same evidence as the parliamentary inquiry which started first. This meant much of the damning evidence was subject to parliamentary privilege and couldn’t be released to the police. It probably can now.

    • Thanks Stuart – I agree with much of what you have said, although I don’t think the personal gain point is so clear cut. MacShane obviously enjoyed jetting around Europe, and deliberately conned the taxpayer because he knew he wasn’t entitled to claim for a large amount of his travel costs.

      He was one of the generation of politicians who played the system and simply didn’t understand why the public were outraged by their behaviour.

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