Friday 21 October 2016

Labour turns on Vaz as he quits after rent boy scandal

Christopher Hope

Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30

Veteran Labour MP Keith Vaz. Photo: Reuters
Veteran Labour MP Keith Vaz. Photo: Reuters

Keith Vaz is facing further humiliation after the Labour Party turned on him in the wake of the sex scandal which led to him resigning as chairman of the Home Affairs select committee.

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The Labour MP stepped down from the paid parliamentary position yesterday after a tabloid claimed he paid male prostitutes for sex and offered to take poppers and pay for cocaine.

Jeremy Corbyn then cast doubt on whether Mr Vaz would be allowed to continue as an elected member of Labour's ruling national executive committee. Mr Vaz has insisted he will remain a member of the NEC.

However, when asked about the scandal surrounding Mr Vaz, the Labour leader said his position will be "discussed next week". A number of backbenchers, including Labour members, are also privately calling for Mr Vaz to resign as a Labour MP.

Meanwhile, it emerged that, despite resigning as chairman of the influential select committee during a meeting with his fellow members, a defiant Mr Vaz refused to apologise for his conduct. His resignation came after MPs on the committee informed him that they were prepared to resign or force a vote of no confidence if he refused to step down.

It is understood Mr Vaz had been intending to fight on, believing he could keep his job as chairman. He had been due to address the members of the committee in a private session and explain his version of events. However, at 12.30pm Mr Vaz handed an advance statement to the media announcing that he was stepping down.

The statement said: "It is in the best interest of the Home Affairs select committee that its important work can be conducted without any distractions whatsoever. I am genuinely sorry that recent events make it impossible for this to happen if I remain chair." He added: "The integrity of the select committee system matters to me. Those who hold others to account, must themselves be accountable."

Mr Vaz said his "first consideration has been the effect of recent events on my family".

The statement was intended for release by the media to the wider public just after his meeting with the members of the select committee. However, it was tweeted by a BBC journalist shortly after 12.30pm.

During his address to fellow committee members, Mr Vaz did not apologise for his behaviour, but said only that he was sorry the statement had been released earlier than he had planned.

One source said: "He was gracious to the clerks and thanked the members. He was upbeat and spoke about the inquiries and work of the committee and how that had to continue without distraction."

Another MP said: "The thing about Keith is everybody quite likes him, he chairs fairly well, he is a lovable rogue in that sense. But there has got to come a time when your nine lives run out."

Mr Vaz was applauded at the conclusion of the meeting. Tim Loughton, a Conservative MP, was announced as interim chairman of the committee.

Mr Loughton said that Mr Vaz gave a "very frank" account to members about what had happened. "The committee listened, I think, in sadness to what Keith had to say," he said.

Later, Commons Speaker John Bercow was seen giving Mr Vaz a heartfelt pat on the back during a chat in the Commons. However, despite the support of some MPs, senior Labour Party figures began casting doubt on Mr Vaz's future.

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