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Eric Illsley - shock for the electorate

Len Tingle | 16:28 UK time, Friday, 21 May 2010

Eric Illsley c/o Ian Nicholson and PA Wire

It was quite a shock to hear that Eric Illsley has now joined the list of politicians facing criminal charges over their expenses.

He is accused under the Theft Act of falsely claiming £20,000 of expenses for his second home in London between 2005 and 2008.

It must have been even more of a shock to the 17,487 people who voted to re-elect him as MP for Barnsley Central less than two weeks before the announcement of the proceedings was made by the Crown Prosecution Service.

None would have had the faintest idea that he had been under investigation right through his campaign.

In fact, in view of the immediate reaction of the Labour Party it is difficult to see how he could have stood as a candidate had news of the investigation been made public before the elections.

He was suspended from the party until the legal action has run its course. Labour took that decision because of the seriousness of the allegations.

More than one supporter of the parties opposing him in Barnsley have raised the issue of the timing of events.

It brings to four the number of Labour politicians facing criminal charges over their expenses. These include former MPs Elliot Morley, David Chator and Jim Devine.

Eric Illsley differs from the other three in that he is the only one who chose to stand for re-election.

A Tory peer, Lord Hanningfield, also faces criminal charges over his expenses claims.

Eric Illsley remains as an MP, receives his salary and could attend the House of Commons if he chooses to do so.

If he does, his suspension from the party means it will be the first time the Barnsley-born MP has been unable to sit on the Labour benches since he won the seat in 1987.

So far there has been no comment from Eric Illsley.

He will appear in court for the first time next month.

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