I was locked up with gangsters and killers says shamed ex-MP

Disgraced former Labour minister Denis MacShane
Disgraced former Labour minister Denis MacShane
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Jailed former minister Denis MacShane has told how he felt someone “had it in for me” after he spent six weeks in high-security Belmarsh prison before being moved to Brixton, rather than doing his time in an open jail like other expenses-fiddling politicians.

In a diary of his time behind bars, published today in the Mail on Sunday, Mr MacShane recalled how he was locked up alongside gangsters and killers including Soho nail bomber David Copeland as he spent Christmas in Belmarsh last year.

And he revealed that jailed Polly Peck tycoon and former Conservative Party donor Asil Nadir gave readings from the Bible to fellow-inmates at the Christmas Day church service inside the south-east London jail.

The former Labour MP for Rotherham was sent to the Category A prison, housing some of the country’s most dangerous offenders, after being given a six-month jail sentence for making bogus expenses claims worth £12,900.

In his diaries, Mr MacShane complains of being denied writing implements and access to phones in jail and being fed “industrial turkey (and) a tiny cocktail sausage with a bit of bacon and a smidgen of stuffing” for Christmas dinner.

And he reveals that at both Belmarsh and Brixton jails, warders initially addressed him as Ian McShane - perhaps mixing him up with the Lovejoy and Deadwood actor.

Mr MacShane was jailed for filing fake receipts to cover trips to Europe, but insisted he did not personally profit from it.

In his diaries, he says that fellow-inmates were “baffled” that he should be locked up alongside them, given the scale of his offence.

In one entry, he describes the moment he was told he would be transferred from Belmarsh to HMP Brixton, a resettlement prison housing category C/D prisoners, rather than an open jail.

He writes: “Who is it that has it in for me? Every other jailed politician has done his time in an open prison. I go to one of the sink-holes. I am utterly dismayed.”

And he says he told lags about the methods used by other MPs to rack up far larger sums through their expenses claims while remaining within the rules in force at the time, concluding: “Dear, oh dear, why didn’t I claim my expenses like other profiteering MPs?”

In an entry on Christmas Day, MacShane wrote: “More than anything, I want to call my children, Laura and Benjamin, and my partner Vicky. But there is only one phone for 80 prisoners on the spur.

“I wonder if any Prison Minister knows what it is like when you cannot say happy Christmas to your children.

“At the final meal of the day. I opted for a half-chicken – a special for Christmas – only to be told all the chickens had gone. In other words, the servers had given the half-chicken to their mates.

“Instead it was two thin slices of industrial turkey. At least there was a tiny cocktail sausage with a bit of bacon and a smidgen of stuffing.”

A later entry on January 2 describes a lunch sitting where he eats a tuna baguette. He writes: “This unpleasant white cotton-wool bread and fishy slush is horrid. I would give anything for some wholemeal bread.”

MacShane writes that most of his fellow inmates “confess bafflement at my presence given both the small amount of money and, most bizarrely of all, the fact that I didn’t get rich”.

He said: “They listen as I list all the other ways MPs abused and abuse the expenses scheme – all within the rules.

“You could see the new boys and girls at the Tory end of the tea room getting tutorials. They were told to designate a modest flat in their constituency as their main family home, and then they could take out an interest-only loan on their existing London house.

“MPs could claim up to £2,000 a month in mortgage interest payments, which meant a loan of up to £800,000 to spend as you liked providing you showed a statement from a bank that you were paying £2,000 a month in interest.

“My neighbouring Rotherham MP Kevin Barron talked openly about buying a ritzy flat using this system and, when he sold it, the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian reported he made nearly £500,000 in profit.

“All this was perfectly within the rules, and he should know. He is the chairman of the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee.”

MacShane was Rotherham MP from 1994 until his resignation in 2012.