Keith Vaz is back, and it is almost like he has never been away. On Tuesday night he rose again from alleged ill-health, notoriety and temporary obscurity by being formally elected chairman of the Leicester East Constituency Labour Party at a meeting of local members.*
Importantly the Leicester Mercury (January 16) observed that the new Labour MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, “was not present and it is understood she was not made aware of the meeting until a short time beforehand.”
It also seems likely that the meeting was organised to facilitate Webbe non-attendance as the local paper correctly explained: “CLP meetings in Leicester have traditionally been held on Thursday or Friday evenings when MPs have returned to their constituencies after a week in Westminster.”
For those living locally, it is known that meetings of Labour members had always been something of a rarity under Vaz’s parliamentary reign, as local party democracy was certainly not something that concerned Vaz his many, many cronies (which includes the majority of Labour councillors in Leicester East).
So those Labour members who were lucky enough to find out about this week’s exceptional meeting were, as one might have expected, not informed of Vaz’s plan to ensure that latecomers would be barred from entry to his special inauguration. This ‘oversight’ led to a number of Labour members being physically blocked from entering the meeting, and in one instance led to one of Vaz’s bouncers (allegedly a local Labour councillor) assaulting one of the said latecomers! An incident that is currently being investigated by Leicestershire Police.
Vaz, ever the self publicist, made sure that in the course of his very exclusionary meeting that Labour members heard much from Vaz about Vaz, and with a stroke of triumphalism Vaz was duly elected chairman of the CLP by the majority of the hundred odd people in attendance. This ‘election’ was on the cards as in the week before his controversial ‘election’ Vaz had already attended another city-wide Labour meeting where, with the power of what can only be referred to as dictatorial foresight, Vaz had premptively announced his own election.
All this being said, Vaz’s latest ‘democratic’ victory is not all that surprising when one considers the authoritarian grip he continues to maintain over Leicester East. So the millionaire-dollar question that now remains is this: what is Claudia Webbe going to do to help bring democracy back to Leicester East?
*John Thomas, the previous chairman of Vaz’s Midland’s fiefdom had chosen to publicly quit the Labour Party during the General Election all the better to denounce Jeremy Corbyn!