I was Denis MacShane's landlord

The Independent's sketchwriter writes about renting a property to Denis MacShane, who resigned as an MP today over submitting false expense claims

Share
Related Topics

Since I’ve known Denis MacShane, off and on, for the more than 40 years since we were university contemporaries, I can’t feel other than real sadness about the personal disaster in which he engulfed himself.

Indeed, that long connection is the main reason for a misjudgement of my own concerning the Rotherham MP, though one unrelated to the expenses claims excoriated in yesterday's Standards and Privileges Committee Report. From October 2010 to last month I was his landlord.

He was a model tenant and a particularly accommodating one since he was always more than ready to let me stay in the spare room of my two bedroom flat when I returned on occasional trips from Jerusalem where I had been based as a correspondent since March 2004. A friend had rented the flat for the earlier three years I had been abroad and when he approached me to take over the rental I agreed.

On one level I had few regrets. He had had his share of personal tragedy—not least the death of his daughter Clare in a skydiving accident. He had much more recently broken up with his long term partner. I agreed to the arrangement shortly before the opening of the police investigation—the subject matter of which I knew very little having been abroad during the relevant years— but overcame my sudden doubts by taking the traditional view that a man was innocent till proved guilty—and indeed was as relieved as all his friends were when it was closed in July.

The £1450 a month (the same as for my previous tenant) rental agreement was fully approved by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, created in 2009 to make a “clean break” after Westminster was finally galvanised by the MPs' expenses scandal, and which I knew was reimbursing him for the rent. Nor was there any secret about the fact that for at least part of the period he was also renting out his London home—it is a published fact in the Declaration of MPs' Interests. 

But in the aftermath of public outrage over MPs' expenses I knew that it was impossible to defend the arrangement— however legal— by which MPs could not claim expenses for mortgage interest but could claim for renting a property while letting out their own. And to the extent that I was abetting such an arrangement I was open to justified  criticism as well.

Back in July, unaware that the Parliamentary Commissioner had decided to resume the investigation after the police decision not to proceed, I warned him that I would be returning in the autumn and needed the flat back.

MacShane was very far from alone among MPs in entering such an arrangement, of course. Nor was he involved in one of the cosy deals which the system allows MPs to make by renting their homes to each other. But the recent publicity over such cases makes it all the likelier that the rules will be changed. And if the rules are changed that will  be –rightly—welcomed by the public.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Recruitment and Sales People wanted f...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Service Engineer - Television & HI-FI

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For the sake of the millions of girls who miss vital schooling during their periods, we must dismantle the 'menstrual taboo'

Emily Wilson Smith
 

Rick Santorum’s presidential bid isn’t funny, it’s terrifying

Sirena Bergman
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada