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UK Labour leader jailed for cheating

London, Dec. 23: A senior Labour Party politician, who was jailed today for six months for fiddling his expenses, will be spending Christmas in prison.

Denis MacShane, 65, who held the key post of europe minister under Tony Blair, cheated the public purse of nearly 13,000 by submitting 19 fake receipts for “research and translation services”.

As a prominent Labour MP, he gave crucial support to Blair over the latter’s controversial decision to invade Iraq to look for “weapons of mass destruction” — these were never found.

McShane was Labour MP for Rotherham, a constituency in south Yorkshire, from 1994 until November last year when he was forced to resign from parliament after police charged him with corruption.

The court heard that MacShane, who ran an organisation called the European Policy Institute, submitted expenses signed by the body’s general manager. But it emerged the receipts had been forged by MacShane.

The politician arrived in court today, carrying a small suitcase in the expectation he might have to stay away from home for a while — and the judge, Justice Sweeney, did not disappoint him.

He told the former MP that his dishonesty had been “considerable and repeated many times over a long period”.

“You have no one to blame but yourself,” the judge said. “The deception used was calculated and designed.”

As befits a man who had read history at Merton College, Oxford, MacShane’s reaction on being sent down was to say in French: “Quelle surprise (what a surprise).”

MacShane’s defence was that he had incurred “genuine expenses” for similar amounts which he chose to recoup by dishonest false accounting rather than through legitimate claims.

Sweeney told him: “However chaotic your general paperwork was, there was deliberate, oft repeated and prolonged dishonesty over a period of years — involving a flagrant breach of trust and consequent damage to Parliament, with correspondingly reduced confidence in our priceless democratic system and the process by which it is implemented and we are governed.”The judge said he took into account a number of mitigating features, including MacShane’s guilty plea and that the offences were “not committed out of greed”.

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