Denis MacShane: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 Denis MacShane 

In office
3 April 2002 – 5 May 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Peter Hain
Succeeded by Douglas Alexander

Member of Parliament
for Rotherham
Assumed office 
5 May 1994
Preceded by James Boyce
Majority 10,681 (35.6%)

Born 21 May 1948 (1948-05-21) (age 61)
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Domestic partner Carol Barnes
Joan Smith
Alma mater Merton College, Oxford, University of London

Denis MacShane (born 21 May 1948) is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Rotherham since 1994, and served as the Minister of State for Europe from 2002 until 2005.


Before politics

He was born as Denis Matyjaszek, to an Irish mother, Isobel MacShane, and her Polish husband, Jan Matyjaszek[1], who had fought in the Second World War and remained in exile after it, taking British nationality in 1950. He was educated at St Benedict's School in Ealing and read history at Merton College, Oxford. After graduating from Oxford with a 3rd class degree, he completed a PhD in international economics at the University of London, he worked for the BBC from 1969 to 1977. He changed his surname to his mother's maiden name at the request of his employers. He became an activist for the National Union of Journalists and later its president. He was policy director of the International Metal Workers' Federation from 1980 to 1992, then founded the European Policy Institute of which he was the director from 1992 to 1994. MacShane supported the Solidarity trade union in Poland, where he was arrested in 1982 for attending a demonstration, and deported.

Political biography

He first contested a parliamentary seat at the October 1974 general election, where he failed to win Solihull. He was elected to the House of Commons in the 1994 Rotherham by-election, and served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to a succession of ministers in the 1997-2001 Parliament. After the 2001 general election, he was made a junior minister at the Foreign Office with responsibility for the Balkans and Latin America.

Minister of State for Europe

In 2002 he became Minister of State for Europe in the reshuffle caused by the resignation of Estelle Morris. 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[2] [3]. Afterwards he had to make clear that, as minister with responsibility for Latin America, the government deplored the coup attempt[4][5].

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 his falling between the two stools of being neither overtly a Blairite nor a Brownite, and thus, in his own words, having "no hand to push [him] up the greasy pole". However, his position was considered to be untenable after comments he made to a meeting of Durham Labour Students[6] in which he described Gordon Brown's five economic tests 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." However, he had been recorded on a dictaphone, with the tape played on both the Today Programme and BBC News 24. MacShane himself wrote in Tribune "I have no idea why I was removed as a minister and it does not worry me in the slightest."[7]

Later career

He was appointed a member of the Privy Council in 2005. He has continued to write columns for The Guardian since his fall from the heights of government, as well as appearing on television programmes relating to European affairs both in Britain and in other European countries.

In 2005 he became a signatory of 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". In 2003 he criticised the Muslim community, saying they did not do enough to condemn acts of Islamic terrorism[8]. He was a supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has strongly supported Tony Blair's foreign policy in relation to the Middle East, and elsewhere.

He was chair of the inquiry panel of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism, which reported in September 2006. Other members included Iain Duncan-Smith and Chris Huhne. In March 2009, he became chairman of a thinktank on anti-Semitism, the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism[9].

He is an advisory board member of Just Journalism, an independent organization that aims to promote accurate and responsible reporting about Israel in the UK media.

MacShane has been called "one of the few British politicians with a deep knowledge of France."[10]

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 (EN/US: SLAPP tourists) as well as how various jurisdictions in the United States (including the States of New York, Illinois, and the US Federal Government) are 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.[11]



MacShane, during the expenses scandal of 2009, was accused in The Daily Mail of having been less than open/honest with his expense claims. The Daily Mail featured a story stating that MacShane had claimed £125,000 over a period of 7 years for his garage, which he used as a constituency office. One fellow Labour MP privately told the journalist that he was ‘very surprised’ at the scale of Mr MacShane’s claims given that he does not have to pay to rent an office. ‘I pay £6,000 a year in rent so if he doesn’t have to pay that, it sounds like a lot of money,’ said the MP.[12]

False trafficking statistics

MacShane has been accused of repeatedly using false statistics in order to inflate the number of female vicitms of sex trafficking. In January 2007 he announced that "according to Home Office estimates, 25,000 sex slaves currently work in the massage parlours and brothels of Britain." It later emerged that no such figure exists as an estimate, but due to his speech the false figure has regularly been used in media coverage of the issue.[13].

McKinnon case

He was also criticised in the same paper for implying that the late diagnosis of Gary McKinnon's Asperger's Syndrome was somehow a sham and for likening his case to that of Ernest Saunders, even though one of the most notable characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome is that it is very often not diagnosed until late into adulthood, as in Mr McKinnon's case. (There is no reason to cast doubt on Mr McKinnon's diagnosis and in fact the Saunders Asperger's diagnosis was also found to be correct, leading to early release). According to the Daily Mail, "Mr McKinnon's mother accused MacShane of 'gutter' tactics. Janis Sharp said: 'It was an absolutely awful, cheap shot. It is a horrendous suggestion. It also shows his ignorance.'"

Personal life

MacShane was married to broadcaster Carol Barnes between 1998 and 2004. Their daughter Clare Barnes, died in March 2004 after her parachute failed to open on her 200th skydiving jump in Australia[14]. His present partner is feminist writer Joan Smith.


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Boyce
Member of Parliament for Rotherham
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Hain
Minister of State for Europe
2002 – 2005
Succeeded by
Douglas Alexander

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