Keith Vaz: Who is the Labour MP caught up in male prostitute claims?

Dubbed the 'Teflon MP', 59-year-old is widely seen as a slick self-publicist and nimble political networker

Maya Oppenheim@mayaoppenheim
Monday 05 September 2016 10:13
Keith Vaz stands down as Home Affairs Select Committee chairman

Keith Vaz’s political career may have been plagued by accusations and investigations but the latest headlines about him could prove to be the most damaging yet.

The Labour MP has been forced to stand down as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee following allegations he paid for the services of two male escorts at his London flat.

Routinely referred to as a smooth operator and a vehement self-publicist, the MP for Leicester East is the longest-serving British Asian MP.

Hailed as a politically nimble, dexterous politician, Mr Vaz has found himself attached to varying parts of the political spectrum within the Labour Party during his career.

Throughout his time in the corridors of power, he has gone from a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, a left-wing, democratic socialist grouping of the Labour Party, to a key proponent of the New Labour cause.

Dubbed the “the Teflon MP” and “Keith Vazeline”, he is renowned for his ability to bounce back from allegations and supposed scandals.

He was previously a solicitor and then a barrister

Born in Aden, in Yemen, in 1956, his full name is Nigel Keith Anthony Standish Vaz. Both his parents are originally from the Indian state of Goa and he is a far-flung relative of Saint Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century missionary.

It was not until 1965 that he moved to England with his family and settled, in Twickenham, in London, where his father embarked on a career in the airline industry and his mother juggled two jobs, one as a teacher and another in Marks & Spencer. His father killed himself when he was just 14.

After excelling at Latymer School in Hammersmith, he secured a first-class degree in Law at Cambridge and went on to study at the College of Law before practising first as a solicitor and then as a barrister. In 1982 he joined the Labour Party and in the space of a few years, he was elected as MP for Leicester East with a majority of just under 2,000 in 1987.

He served as Britain’s Minister for Europe under Tony Blair and was later elected as Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2007. He was re-elected in 2010 and again in June 2015.

He has been described as an relentless self-publicist

Mr Vaz has been noted for his knack for networking and self-promoting.

Political commentator Kevin Maguire once said: “The most dangerous place in Britain? Between Keith Vaz and a camera.”

In a similar vein, former Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine described the politician as “the most incredible networker I have ever met”.

To put this into context, a party thrown to celebrate his 25 years as an MP was attended by some of the most influential names in the country, including Theresa May, Tony Blair, Ed Milliband and police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe.

His family are well-connected

The politician is by no means the only member of his family to have found himself in the political sphere. His sister, Valerie, has been the MP for Walsall South since 2010 and his wife, Maria Fernandes, runs a law firm.