tried to play down

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Denis MacShane previously sought to play down the MPs’ expenses scandal as “a wonderful moment of British fiddling... on a Dad’s Army scale” and not “the real corruption of politics”.

As the fall-out of yesterday’s damning report into his behaviour deepened, it became clear his colleagues did not share his view.

Labour leader Ed Miliband moved quickly to suspend him from the party and said he accepted a statement from the Rotherham MP his career with the party was effectively over.

Throughout the day, the murmurs grew from senior shadow cabinet members that he needed to step down.

“This really smells”, one told the Yorkshire Post, minutes before Mr MacShane announced his resignation.

It was with a relatively brief statement for someone well-known for a readiness to expound on a wide variety of subjects that he declared last night he was quitting politics.

A multi-lingual Europhile, who served as Europe Minister for three years under Tony Blair, he has been a regular commentator in the media both at home and abroad and the author of several books.

Born in Glasgow in 1948, he was educated at Merton College, Oxford – and later in life gained a PhD at Birkbeck College in London – before working for eight years as a BBC reporter and presenter from 1969.

He was sacked from that job over a call made under a false name to a talk show he worked on a scheme which came unstuck when the BBC was threatened with legal action for alleged defamation of a Tory MP.

In 1992 he founded the European Policy Institute and was its director until 1994 – when he was elected as the MP for Rotherham, and has held the seat ever since.

An obvious candidate for the Foreign Office when the party swept to power in 1997, he was a Commons aide to its Ministers during the first term.

In 2001 he was made a Junior Minister, causing some diplomatic discomfort in 2002 when he described Venezuela president Hugo Chavez as a “ranting populist demagogue”.

He was condemned by British Muslims after telling them they must condemn terrorism more a day after 27 people died in two bomb blasts in Istanbul, Turkey.*