Whatever happened to Denis MacShane?


The EU summit at Hampton Court in October 2005 had one beneficial side effect – Denis MacShane was back on our screens giving us the benefit of his wisdom on Europe.  He disappeared from our screens because, after serving as the Minister in the Foreign Office responsible for Europe since 2002, he didn’t get a ministerial job after the 2005 general election.   Strange, given that he was New Labour to his finger tips and apparently a rising star.


Could his demise have something to do with his unscripted remarks to a student audience at Durham University late last year?  A report in The Scotsman on his remarks on 4 December 2004 was entitled Minister contradicts Blair and Brown on Euro.  It began:


“Denis MacShane, the Minister for Europe, has said he considers Gordon Brown’s five economic tests for joining the single European currency to be a ‘giant red herring’, in candid comments which bring him into conflict with the Chancellor and official government policy.


“Mr MacShane also said that the European Union Constitution ‘won’t be the last word’ in European integration, contrary to government policy, and that it would be better for the British government to attempt ‘to scrap’ the European Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) than to reform it.”


When contacted by The Scotsman about these remarks, he denied he had made them – but had to backtrack when told that the paper had a clear recording of him making them.


After this, it’s a surprise he survived as a Minister for another six months, particularly, since he had got himself into terrible trouble a year earlier.  The latter was over a speech to Muslims in his Rotherham constituency on 21 November 2003, the day after British targets were attacked in Istanbul.  This time his remarks were scripted and released to the media in advance – and produced a furore before he delivered them, because they included the statement that it was


“… time for the elected and community leaders of British Muslims to make a choice: the British way, based on political dialogue and non-violent protests, or the way of the terrorists against which the whole democratic world is uniting”. (The Guardian, 22 November 2005).


He had to eat large amounts of humble pie for that, but remarkably he survived as Europe Minister.


David Morrison

Labour & Trade Union Review


31 October 2005