Self-Interest First and Keith Vaz’s Contribution to the Politics of Division

Once upon a time Keith Vaz had pretences of being a principled socialist who was a proud member of the Socialist Campaign Group when he was first elected to parliament in 1987. Yet the warm and lucrative embrace of capitalism and war proved too appealing to Vaz and he has spent the last quarter of a century backing each and every act of imperialist aggression that he could.

He exemplifies the type of slippery politician who in his efforts to please himself, does a massive disservice to the ideas of political representation.

Moreover, Vaz’s relentless self-promotion does nothing to promote the interests of the Labour movement, and nothing to help the poorest and most vulnerable of his working-class constituents in Leicester. This is one reason why Vaz and his pitiful handful of Labour cronies have courted infamy within the Labour movement because of the way in which they shielded their MP from even the most minimal forms of democratic accountability.

Rather than unite working-class communities in the fight-back against the poverty of capitalism, Vaz does the opposite if he thinks he can shore up a few votes. This is Tory politics not Labour politics. Vaz’s actions typify his commitment to the discredited pro-capitalist ideas of Tony Blair rather than the inspiring socialist politics of Jeremy Corbyn.

The stories of Vaz’s sell-out of attempts to build working-class solidarity are all too commonplace in Leicester. Vaz willingly trashes socialist ideas if he can garner just a few votes for himself.

Vote Vaz

A perfect example of Vaz’s divisive approach to politics was plain for all to see in late 2009 when he intervened to undermine efforts to improve educational standards in Leicester by playing off the demands of a small number of voters in his own constituency against those on the opposite side of our city.

A group of concerned parents from the brilliantly performing Rushey Mead School, which is situated in Vaz’s constituency, had evidently raised concerns with him that they did not like the idea that teachers from their school were involved in a project to help improve educational standards at Fullhurst College, in Braunstone. This was a useful educational scheme that had the full-backing of Leicester’s Labour Council and the local teaching unions.

Vaz thus explained to the Leicester Mercury (“MP slams linking schools,” September 25) that the help provided by Rushey Mead teachers to those at the struggling Fullhurst College was like the “British Prime Minister working in Rwanda two days a week”.

To add insult to injury, rather than support local efforts by the unions and the Council to avoid the privatisation of Leicester’s schools, Vaz’s so-called solution, as he explained to the Mercury reporter was simply that: “The council should look at turning Fullhurst into an academy”.

I will leave the final word with the Leicester National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) Assistant Secretary, Peter Flack, who responded to Vaz’s latest effort at self-promotion in a letter printed in the Mercury on 1st October.

“How strange that we should have a Labour MP publicly opposing sharing and partnership working,” Flack wrote. He continued that “Teachers, unions and the council have worked hard over recent years to develop a collective sense of responsibility for educational progress in our city,” something that was being actively undermined by Vaz’s ill-informed intervention.

“We know that the sharing of expertise and good practice is the best way to raise standards in education. We applaud the efforts of staff at Rushey Mead and in other city schools who have taken up the challenge of collaborative working, which has happened now in a number of both primary and secondary schools across the city.”

Flack then pointed out how Vaz “ends up in his comfortable ignorance condemning his own Government’s support for partnership working,” but:

“Worst of all, Mr Vaz insults Fullhurst Community College and the people of West Leicester. Mr Vaz describes helping Fullhurst as like helping Rwanda. Rwanda was a very poor African country, riven by an inter-tribal campaign of genocide that left millions displaced, starving and in despair. Millions died because at first no one was willing to intervene and help.

“Fullhurst is a community comprehensive school that needed a bit of help. Rather than just leave things as they were the council, unions and other schools stepped in because we all want to ensure high quality education for pupils in every school… Fullhurst is and was no Rwanda. Mr Vaz owes the teachers and students at Fullhurst and the people of West Leicester an apology for his disgraceful slur.

“Finally, what can we learn from this? According to Keith Vaz, decisions about education in Leicester should be based not on what is best for children and education across the city, but on the narrow constituency self-interest of the MP himself and what might help get Mr Vaz re-elected. I think there has to be a higher set of moral values than that, somewhere.”


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