Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane
Minister of State for Europe
In office
3 April 2002  5 May 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Peter Hain
Succeeded by Douglas Alexander
Minister of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
In office
11 June 2001  3 April 2002
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Brian Wilson
Succeeded by Bill Rammell
Member of Parliament
for Rotherham
In office
5 May 1994  5 November 2012
Preceded by James Boyce
Succeeded by Sarah Champion
Majority 10,462 (27.9%)
Personal details
Born Josef Denis Matyjaszek
(1948-05-21) 21 May 1948
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, UK
Political party Labour (suspended)
Spouse(s) Liliana Kłaptoć (1983–1986)
Nathalie Pham (1987–2003)
Domestic partner Carol Barnes (1975–1981)
Joan Smith (2003–2010)
Children 4 daughters
1 son
Residence Clapham and Rotherham
Alma mater Merton College, Oxford
Birkbeck, University of London
Website Official website

Denis MacShane (born Denis Matyjaszek; 21 May 1948) is a British former Labour Party[1] politician who was convicted of false accounting by falsifying parliamentary expense claims. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Rotherham from 1994 to his resignation in 2012 and served in the Labour Government as Minister of State for Europe from 2002 until 2005.

In November 2012, he was suspended from the Labour Party after the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found that he had submitted 19 false invoices "plainly intended to deceive" the parliamentary expenses authority. The same day he announced his intention to resign as MP for Rotherham.[2][3][4] Subsequently, in October 2013, he was removed from the Privy Council.[5]

In November 2013 he pleaded guilty to false accounting at the Old Bailey, by submitting false receipts for £12,900.[6] On 23 December, Mr Justice Sweeney sentenced MacShane to six months in prison.[7] He served six weeks of his sentence before being released.


MacShane was born in Glasgow as Denis Matyjaszek to an Irish mother, Isobel MacShane, and Jozef Matyjaszek,[8] a Pole who had fought in the Second World War and remained in exile, taking British nationality in 1950.

MacShane was educated at the independent St Benedict's School in Ealing,[9] before going on to study at Merton College, Oxford.[10]

Early career

He worked for the BBC from 1969 to 1977,[11] including as a newsreader and reporter on Wolverhampton Wanderers for BBC Radio Birmingham. He changed his surname to his mother's maiden name at the request of his employers. He was fired by the BBC after using a fake name to call the radio phone-in programme he worked on at the time. During the call, MacShane accused leading Conservative politician Reginald Maudling of being a crook, with the MP threatening to sue as a result.[12]

MacShane supported the Solidarity trade union in Poland, where he was arrested in 1982 for attending a demonstration and deported. He became an activist for the National Union of Journalists and later its president 1978 to 1979. He was policy director of the International Metal Workers' Federation from 1980 to 1992,[13] and he completed a PhD in international economics at Birkbeck, University of London in 1990.[11][14]

Political career

MacShane first contested a parliamentary seat at the October 1974 general election, where he failed to win Solihull. In 1984, he was on the short list for Labour Party Communications Director, but Peter Mandelson was appointed instead. For the 1992 general election, he attempted to secure a nomination for the Coventry South East constituency, then Neath, and finally Rotherham, though all the attempts were unsuccessful.[15]

MacShane was elected to the House of Commons in the 1994 Rotherham by-election. He was a member of the Deregulation Select Committee 1996–1997, and served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to a succession of ministers in the 1997–2001 Parliament.[16]

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office

After the 2001 general election, MacShane was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 11 June 2001,[17] with responsibility for the Balkans and Latin America. He caused some embarrassment to the government in 2002 by describing President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela as a 'ranting, populist demagogue' and compared him to Benito Mussolini during a failed military coup attempt to depose the democratically elected president.[18][19] Afterwards, he had to make clear that, as minister with responsibility for Latin America, the government deplored the coup attempt.[20][21]

In November 2001, an article was published under Khalid Mahmood's name supportive of the war in Afghanistan headlined "The Five Myths Muslims Must Deny".[22] A few days later however, it was revealed that The Observer article had not in fact been written by Mahmood, but by MacShane; Mahmood had agreed to put his name to the article after Lord Ahmed of Rotherham had refused. Mahmood's actions were condemned by Inayat Bunglawala from the Muslim Council of Britain, who said, "MacShane then found Mahmood – universally regarded as being not exactly the brightest spark in parliament – to be a more willing instrument for his scheme".[23]

Minister for Europe

In 2002, he became Minister for Europe in the reshuffle caused by the resignation of Estelle Morris.[24] After the 2005 general election, he was dropped from the government. MacShane's failure to remain in government is believed by some to have been because he was neither overtly a Blairite nor a Brownite. His position was considered to be untenable after comments he made to a meeting of Durham Labour Students in which he described Gordon Brown's five economic tests for joining the European single currency as, "a bit of a giant red herring."

When contacted by The Scotsman newspaper about whether or not he made the comments he responded: "Jesus Christ, no. I mean, ‘red herring’ is not one of my favourite metaphors. If you think any Labour MP saying the Prime Minister’s most important policy is a red herring, then they would not survive long in the job." He had been recorded on a dictaphone, and the tape was played on both the Today programme and BBC News 24. MacShane wrote in Tribune, "I have no idea why I was removed as a minister, and it does not worry me in the slightest."[25]

MacShane was appointed a member of the Privy Council in 2005.[11] He resigned his membership in 2013.[5]

Other political interests

MacShane has been involved in other foreign relations fields, including in relation to the Middle East. He was a member of Labour Friends of Israel Policy Council for many years.[26] In 2003, he criticised Muslim community leaders, saying they did not do enough to condemn acts of Islamic terrorism.[27]

MacShane was a supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and strongly supported Tony Blair's foreign policy in relation to the Middle East and elsewhere. In 2005, he signed on to the Henry Jackson Society principles, advocating a proactive approach to the spread of liberal democracy across the world, including by military intervention. The society also supports "European military modernisation and integration under British leadership".[28] After returning to the backbenches in 2005, he was appointed as a delegate to the Council of Europe and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.[7]

Another issue on which MacShane was active as a parliamentarian was combating antisemitism. He was chair of the inquiry panel of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, which reported in September 2006. In March 2009, he became chairman of a think-tank on antisemitism, the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism.[29]

MacShane was an advisory board member of the now defunct Just Journalism,[30] a pro-Israeli media advocacy group which presented itself as a neutral voice monitoring reports about Israel in the UK media. Just Journalism had strong links with the Henry Jackson Society, and shared an office with it.[31]

After MacShane was forced to resign his seat, Martin Bright in The Jewish Chronicle wrote that his "fall from grace has been a blow for those who share his concerns about extremist politics, whether it is radical Islamism in the Middle East, neo-fascism at home or the rise of ultranationalist groups in Eastern Europe."[32] In November 2013, Bright described MacShane as "one of" the Jewish community's "greatest champions".[33]

Other issues and incidents

MacShane has been accused of repeatedly using false statistics in order to inflate the number of female victims of sex trafficking. In January 2007, he stated, "According to Home Office estimates, 25,000 sex slaves currently work in the massage parlours and brothels of Britain." He repeated the figure in a 2008 debate, attributing it to the Daily Mirror newspaper. It was later claimed that no such figure exists as an estimate.[34]

On 17 December 2008, he initiated a debate about Britain's libel laws in Parliament. Specifically, he described how the United Kingdom has become a destination for libel tourists as well as how various jurisdictions in the United States (including the U.S. states of New York and Illinois and the federal government) were ready to pass measures designed to halt, at the minimum, reciprocal enforcement of civil judgments related to libel with the United Kingdom, and quite possibly, to allow countersuit, and the award of treble damages in the United States against any person bringing a libel action in a non-US court against US publications or websites.[35]

On 25 August 2010, The Guardian reported that MacShane admitted he was the MP involved in an incident with a volunteer with the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority: "On 11 May a volunteer had an encounter with an MP who was described as 'very difficult ... disruptive [and] angry' during an induction session. The official report said: 'At the 10 minute mark the volunteer burst into tears and a staff member [from Ipsa] attempted to intervene. When the staff member offered to help, the MP dismissed him as 'condescending', at which point another staff member pulled the volunteer (still in tears) out of the session.' MacShane apologised for his conduct.[36]

MacShane was publicly criticised by the Association of Political Thought for wrongly accusing London School of Economics professor of political and gender theory Anne Phillips of supporting prostitution and filling the minds of her students with "poisonous drivel". As evidence of her supposed support for the latter, he cited a question from an LSE reading list about the ethical differences between legal waged labour and prostitution. MacShane later admitted that he had taken the question 'out of context'.[37] Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart subsequently called Professor Phillips' views "frankly nauseating" on the basis of the same evidence.[37][38]

MacShane was a Patron of Supporters of Nuclear Energy,[39] and supported the development of a nuclear industry manufacturing centre in Rotherham.[40] MacShane was employed as an advisor by United Utilities, Britain's largest water company, during 2006 and 2007.[41][42]

MacShane was MP for Rotherham during the period of large-scale sexual abuse of children in the constituency. After the publication of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham he said in a BBC radio interview that no-one had come to him with child abuse allegations during that period, but that he should have been more involved in the issue. Saying that he had done too little, he said he had been aware of what he saw as the problems of cousin marriage and the oppression of women within bits of the Muslim community in Britain, but: "Perhaps yes, as a true Guardian reader, and liberal leftie, I suppose I didn't want to raise that too hard. I think there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat if I may put it like that."[43]

Parliamentary expenses, resignation and conviction

Newspaper reports and general parliamentary review

As part of the review of all MPs expenses, MacShane was ordered to repay £1,507.73 in wrongfully claimed expenses, with his appeals against the ruling being rejected.[44][45] He was also alleged to have passed twelve invoices from the "European Policy Institute" for "research and translation" expenses to the parliamentary authorities, and claimed for eight laptop computers in three years. A number of newspapers stated that the EPI was "controlled" by MacShane's brother, Edmund Matyjaszek, a claim which MacShane denied: "The EPI was set up 20 years ago by a network of people on the Left working in Europe and the US... Ed is my Brother, but simply administrates it."[46]

MacShane had previously written an article for The Guardian in which he played down the expenses scandal, writing, "There will come a moment when moats and manure, bath plugs and tampons will be seen as a wonderful moment of British fiddling, but more on a Dad's Army scale than the real corruption of politics."[47] In 2008, MacShane supported House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin, calling for Conservative Douglas Carswell to be disciplined for saying that Martin should resign for failing to do enough to prevent the abuse of parliamentary expense claims.[48]

Resumed parliamentary investigation

MacShane was re-admitted to the Labour Party in July 2012, but was then suspended again by the Labour Party on 2 November 2012 after a parliamentary committee found that he had submitted 19 false invoices for expenses that were "plainly intended to deceive".[2] Later that day, MacShane announced that he would be resigning from Parliament. He said: "I have decided for the sake of my wonderful constituency of Rotherham and my beloved Labour Party to resign as an MP by applying for the Chiltern Hundreds or as guided by the House authorities. I love the House of Commons and I hope by resigning I can serve by showing that MPs must take responsibility for their mistakes and accept the consequences of being in breach of the House rules".[49]

He said in a statement: "Clearly I deeply regret that the way I chose to be reimbursed for costs related to my work in Europe and in combating antisemitism, including being the Prime Minister’s personal envoy, has been judged so harshly."[50] However, the Standards and Privileges Committee stated that the Commons had placed strict conditions and limits on funding MPs' travel to Europe, MacShane was clearly aware of these rules, and concluded "Mr MacShane claimed in the way he did to ensure that his use of public funds for his European travel was not challenged" by sending misleading invoices to himself in order to claim the costs of travelling and to entertain European contacts.[3]:16,20–21

Referral to police and conviction

It was reported on 14 October 2010 that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (on instruction from the Standards and Privileges Committee[51]) had referred an expenses-related complaint about MacShane from the British National Party[52] to the Metropolitan Police. The matter referred was his claiming of expenses totalling £125,000 for his constituency office, the office being his garage. The Labour Party suspended MacShane from the parliamentary party pending the outcome.[53]

In June 2011, The Daily Telegraph highlighted further discrepancies in MacShane's expenses which had been uncovered by former independent candidate Peter Thirlwall. As a result, he held an emergency meeting with House of Commons officials and agreed to repay a further £3,051.38.[54] The lengthy investigation concluded on 4 July 2012 with an announcement that the Metropolitan Police would take no further action,[55] but it was reported on 21 January 2013 that the police were to re-open the expenses claims investigation involving MacShane.[56]

On 11 July 2013 the Crown Prosecution Service announced that MacShane would be charged with false accounting under the Theft Act 1968, involving the creation of £12,900 of fake receipts.[57] He continued to write columns for The Guardian, as well as appearing on television programmes relating to European affairs both in Britain and in other European countries. On 18 November 2013 he pleaded guilty to false accounting at the Old Bailey,[6] and on 23 December 2013 was jailed for six months.[7][58] He served his sentence in HM Prison Belmarsh and HM Prison Brixton, and subsequently by wearing an electronic tag.[59][60]

Personal life

From 1975 to 1981 MacShane had a relationship with broadcaster Carol Barnes.[61][62] Their daughter, Clare Barnes, died in March 2004 after her parachute failed to open on her 200th skydiving jump in Australia.[63] MacShane married Liliana Kłaptoć, originally from Poland, in 1983, but the relationship lasted only a few years. In 1987, he married Nathalie Pham, an interpreter of French-Vietnamese origin; they have a son and three daughters. They divorced in 2003.[13] His relationship with writer Joan Smith[64] ended in 2010 after seven years. In 2012, he began a relationship with the economist Vicky Pryce, who had been married to the former Energy Secretary Chris Huhne.[65]

In his spare time, he enjoys skiing and running.[66]


  1. "Rt Hon Denis MacShane". House of Commons. Archived from the original on 20 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 "MP's expenses: Denis MacShane resigns over false invoices". BBC. 2 November 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  3. 1 2 Standards and Privileges Committee (2 November 2012). Second Report – Mr Denis MacShane (Report). UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  4. "Denis MacShane Resigns". 2 November 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
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  7. 1 2 3 "MacShane jailed for expenses fraud". BBC News. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
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  9. "NS Profile - Denis MacShane". New Statesman. 11 November 2002. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  10. "Life and troubled times of fiddling MP Denis MacShane". Yorkshire Post. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  11. 1 2 3 "MacSHANE, Rt Hon. Denis". Who's Who 2012. Oxford University Press. December 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  12. Barrett, David; Watts, Robert (3 November 2012). "MPs' expenses: Police take first step towards charges against Denis MacShane". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  13. 1 2 "Vote 2001: Candidates". BBC News. 5 May 1994. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
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  17. "Ministerial winners and losers". BBC. 11 June 2001. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  18. "Find Your MP: Dr Denis MacShane". BBC. 10 February 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  19. Richter, Paul (16 April 2002). "Venezuelan turnabout leaves U.S. in lurch". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  20. MacShane, Denis (17 April 2002). "Letter: Viva Chavez". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  21. "Urgent Question in the House of Commons regarding Venezuela". 14 May 2002. Hansard 14 May 2002: Column 632. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  22. "The five myths Muslims must deny". The Observer. 11 November 2001.
  23. Bunglawala, Inayat (26 November 2008). "Supping with the devil-We're still discovering exactly how politicians and the media colluded to deceive us over Afghanistan and Iraq". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  24. "Denis MacShane named as Europe minister". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
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  27. Tempest, Matthew; and agencies (21 November 2003). "". London, UK: Retrieved 4 November 2010.
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  30. Just Journalism Advisory board at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 April 2008); accessed 2 January 2013.
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  32. Martin Bright "Will the community go on riding the bus with Denis?", The Jewish Chronicle, 8 November 2012.
  33. Martin Bright "Why we should mourn Denis MacShane’s fall from grace", The Jewish Chronicle, 22 November 2013.
  34. Davies, Nick (20 October 2009). "Prostitution and trafficking–the anatomy of a moral panic". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 1 May 2010. See responses by Rahila Gupta and Denis MacShane .
  35. "House of Commons Debates 17 December 2008 col 69WH". Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  36. Watt, Nicholas (25 August 2010). "MPs reduced expenses staff to tears, documents show". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  37. 1 2 OurKingdom (29 May 2011). "MP attacks LSE professor over feminist political theory course". London, UK: OurKingdom. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  38. Hansard (18 May 2011). "Hansard Record of 18th May 2001". London, UK: Hansard. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  39. Ingham, Sir Bernard (26 April 2004). "About SONE". Supporters of Nuclear Energy. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  40. MacShane, Denis. "MacShane Welcomes Nuclear Deal". Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  41. TheyWorkForYou; accessed 25 February 2015.
  42. – Pressure to reveal ex-ministers' outside pay,; accessed 25 February 2015.
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  47. MacShane, Denis (12 May 2009). "Lord Tebbit's act of mutiny". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  48. Hencke, David (14 April 2008). "Tory MP under fire for saying that calling on Speaker to step down". The Guardian. London, UK.
  49. Watt, Holly; Newell, Claire (2 November 2012). "MPs' expenses scandal: Denis MacShane resigns". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  50. Sheinman, Anna (2 November 2012). "Labour MP vocal against antisemitism resigns". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  51. "First Special Report of the Standards and Privileges Committee". House of Commons. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
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  56. "Police to re-open Denis MacShane expenses investigation". BBC News online. 21 January 2013.
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  60. Chris Mullin. "Prison Diaries review – Denis MacShane's account of life behind bars". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  61. "Carol Barnes: Authoritative television journalist who anchored 'News at Ten'". The Independent. London, UK. 10 March 2008.
  62. Smith, Lewis; Charter, David; Maynard, Roger (16 March 2004). "Skydivers last kiss before parachute failed". The Times. London, UK.
  63. "Minister mourns skydive daughter". BBC News. 15 March 2004. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  64. Milligan, Becky (21 July 2009). "Expenses: The MPs' story". BBC News.
  65. Friends of Vicky Price fear for her health,; accessed 25 February 2015.
  66. Profile of Denis MacShane,; accessed 25 February 2014.]


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Boyce
Member of Parliament for Rotherham
Succeeded by
Sarah Champion
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Hain
Minister of State for Europe
Succeeded by
Douglas Alexander
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gordon Marsden
Chair of the Fabian Society
2001 2002
Succeeded by
Paul Richards
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