John McTernan on my Prison Diaries

John McTernan, the policitical commentator and former No 10 insider and press chief to Australian PM Julia Gillard wrote this about my book Prison Diaries in Progress


Nearly a decade ago I spoke at a conference in Spain. It was partly organised by the youth wing of our sister party PSOE and was about the impact of new media – at that time mainly blogs and the blogosphere – on politics. We were in Cáceres in Extremadura and I started talking to local politicians. As I began to explain the situation in the United Kingdom they said ‘Oh, we know. Denis Macshane has just been here.’ I have had similar conversations all across Europe. Denis is that rarity in our party someone who is an internationalist, rather than someone who says they are.

He is also brilliant company and a great writer. When the courts turned on him savagely last year he went to prison well-prepared – he took a suitcase full of books with him. But he fell foul of the new Chris Grayling edict that there is nothing more dangerous in prison than free thinking, and his books were impounded. Not deterred, Denis decided that if he couldn’t read a book he could certainly write one. And now we have ‘Prison Diaries’ a brilliant account of Denis time in Belmarsh and Brixton. It is a great book, by turns analytic, personal and passionate. We get a strong sense of the absurdity of the prison system and its appalling failures. But throughout there is Denis’ characteristic humour. Here’s just one sample:

‘A prison is a bit like a party political conference – full of intensity, lies showing off, preening, seeking to dominate and conquer.’


A must read.

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