Labour has accused the Tories of returning to their “disgraced, scandal-ridden past” after it emerged that Conservative former Cabinet minister and ex-prisoner Jonathan Aitken is being rehabilitated into the political fold.
Mr Aitken will head a study on prison reform for think-tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), which advises David Cameron on social issues.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith – who runs the think-tank – is to formally announce the appointment.
It will be regarded a remarkable comeback for someone jailed for 18 months in 1999 for “calculated perjury” during a libel action.
Mr Aitken’s bid to return as MP for his former seat of Thanet South in 2004 was blocked by then party leader Michael Howard. It would have fallen foul of the law anyway which bars anybody jailed for more than a year from being an MP.
“Jonathan Aitken has very many admirable qualities but I am afraid his days as a Conservative Member of Parliament are over,” Mr Howard said at the time.
Mr Aitken – who subsequently confirmed he would not seek to return to Parliament – insisted: “I am not making a comeback. This isn’t some ego trip for me. What I am doing is doing a quiet job of heading up a study group which is under the auspices of the Centre for Social Justice, and we are going to look with a very distinguished team of experts at the whole field of potential prison reform policy ideas.”
The 65-year-old told Sky News: “We have got three people who have served prison sentences but gone on to do very interesting, worthwhile things with their lives. My prison sentence was certainly a painful experience, but it was also a positive experience because I learned a tremendous amount.”
But Labour whip Tom Watson said: “This is a return to the disgraced, scandal-ridden Tory past. What can we expect next from the Tories?
“David Cameron should go all the way, bring in Jeffrey Archer to run a truth and reconciliation committee, draft Neil Hamilton in to advise him on parliamentary modernisation and scrutiny and bring in Shirley Porter to overhaul his housing policy.”