Former South Thanet MP Jonathan Aitken

Disgraced ex-east Kent MP has astonishing new job

Jonathan Aitken, the former South Thanet MP, is remembered for one thing above all others: going to prison for lying under oath.

He was infamously jailed for 18 months in 1999 after admitting perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Now Aitken, 75, is to go back behind bars – this time as a prison chaplain.

Aitken, who was a journalist before entering politics, is to be ordained at St Paul’s Cathedral before starting work in prisons three or four days a week.

He said: “It’s a life changer. I’m every bit as excited as I was on my first day on the East Anglian Daily Times as the assistant tennis and funerals correspondent.”

Guardian front page

Aitken had been an MP in Thanet since 1974 and succeeded Michael Portillo to become Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1994 under Prime Minister John Major.

In 1995, he was the subject of an investigation by The Guardian and World in Action over claims of shady arms dealings with the Saudis.

He launched a libel action against the news organisations which subsequently collapsed.

The Guardian revelled in Aitken’s demise. It headlined its front page story: “He lied and lied and lied.” Another piece was titled: “The amoral architect of his own ruin.”

In 1999, Aitken began his prison sentence and served seven months of it in custody where he learned Greek and studied the Bible.

While becoming a devout Christian, Aitken said he would not become a vicar in order not to give “dog collars a bad name”.

“Though, 18 years ago, I think if they’d had any sense the Church of England would have rejected me,” he said.

“Remember what a hot potato I was — going through this downward spiral of defeat, disgrace, divorce, bankruptcy and jail — so I don’t think they’d have been queuing up to have me as a curate.”

Aitken lost his South Thanet seat to Labour’s Steve Ladyman in 1997. It is currently held by Conservative Craig Mackinlay.

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