Ex-Labour MP Keith Vaz engaged in ‘sustained and unpleasant’ bullying, inquiry finds

Former MP ‘should be ashamed of his behaviour’, says Commons panel

Adam Forrest
Thursday 23 September 2021 12:11
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<p>Former Labour MP for Leicester East Keith Vaz</p>

Former Labour MP for Leicester East Keith Vaz

Former Labour MP Keith Vaz was responsible for “sustained and unpleasant” bullying of a parliamentary clerk, a House of Commons inquiry has found.

The inquiry into Mr Vaz, carried out by the Independent Expert Panel, found his bullying had a “real and enduring psychological impact” on a member of staff.

The ex-MP for Leicester East “should be ashamed of his behaviour”, said the panel – which also ruled that his eligibility to hold a pass allowing for members access to parliament should never be restored.

Mr Vaz’s behaviour towards Jenny McCullough when he was chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, as stated by Ms McCullough during the course of the investigation, robbed “her of confidence in her judgment and abilities, so that ultimately she felt compelled to leave her work”.

Ms McCullough, who has waived her right to anonymity, said she was repeatedly on the receiving end of Mr Vaz’s aggressive tirades and was forced to leave her job in 2011 because of his behaviour.

She accused the former MP of subjecting her to outbursts of “inappropriate anger”, sometimes using foul language and making “demeaning references” to her in front of others.

The inquiry found that Mr Vaz breached the Commons’ bullying and harassment policy in his dealings with the former committee clerk between 2007 and 2008.

Sir Stephen Irwin, chair of the Independent Expert Panel, said the panel “found that [Mr Vaz’s] misconduct represented sustained and unpleasant bullying, with a real and enduring psychological impact; and that it led to the complainant leaving her career in the House of Commons”.

The chair added: “His eligibility to hold a former member’s pass should never be restored. [His] conduct to the complainant was hostile, sustained, harmful and unworthy of a member of parliament. He should be ashamed of his behaviour.”

Among the claims that were found to be in breach of the bullying policy, Ms McCullough said that after a meeting he had had with some sex workers, Mr Vaz said they “had reminded him of” her.

The former clerk also said he had accused her of not knowing how to effectively support the committee since she “wasn’t a mother”.

Although Mr Vaz previously denied the clerk’s claims and said he was too ill to engage with the inquiry, the panel said “there was no good basis for concluding that those health problems precluded him from engagement with the panel, if only in writing”.

Mr Vaz, who retired from parliament before the last general election, was formally suspended from the Commons for six months in 2019 after he was found to have offered to buy drugs for sex workers and failed to cooperate with an investigation.

He had chaired the Home Affairs Select Committee from 2007 to 2016 – until he was forced to quit when the Sunday Mirror first revealed he had engaged in unprotected sexual activity with male sex workers and offered to buy them cocaine.

Mr Vaz could not be reached for comment on the inquiry report.

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