Expenses fraud MP defiant on release

'Porridge': Eric Illsley
'Porridge': Eric Illsley
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disgraced former South Yorkshire MP Eric Illsley declared he had been made a ‘scapegoat’ over the expenses scandal as he was released from jail.

The politician, who represented Barnsley Central for 23 years, was released on an electronic tag after serving three months of a 12-month sentence.

Illsley, who has returned to the home he shares with wife, Dawn, in Pogmoor, said: “What a lot of people don’t know is that only a handful of MPs were ever investigated. Anyone thinking ‘he’s a wrong ’un’ is not aware that lots of other MPs were in the same situation.

“My case should not have been brought before the courts. I should have been able to apologise to the house and get on with it.

“I hadn’t done differently from quite a lot of other MPs who were willing to keep their heads down and see me as a scapegoat.

“But I shouldn’t have done it. I pleaded guilty, done my prison time, done my punishment.

“My annoyance is that there are so many others who are going to work free and nobody is going to say a dicky bird about their situation – but that’s life.”

Illsley was jailed in February after admitting dishonestly claiming £14,000 of parliamentary expenses relating to his second home.

Describing his feelings at being sentenced, he said: “The first thing was the shock of being in court, hoping for a suspended sentence which didn’t arrive and being told I was going to prison.

“It really is a bleak place. Wandsworth Prison, where I was, is a Victorian prison, it’s very old – anyone who’s seen the sitcom Porridge, it was like that, banged up for 23 hours a day.”

Illsley said his criminal record would cause problems for him when looking for employment – but that he and Dawn were hoping to have a ‘normal life’.

Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg said he was ‘lost for words’ at Illsley’s remarks.

The Deputy PM said: “He broke the law and the case was referred to court by the CPS. He was found guilty by the courts and that’s the end of the story.”