Keith Vaz’s Political Machine Rolls On

Yesterday happens to have been the birthday for Keith Vaz, the disgraced former Labour MP for Leicester East. And tragically, despite his very public parliamentary downfall, Vaz still runs the show in his former constituency, as in addition to hosting a weekly radio show on Lyca Radio, he continues to serve as his CLP’s “campaigns officer.”  

As many people will already know, during the latest parliamentary investigation that contributed to Vaz’s parliamentary downfall, the powerful MP had professed to being too ill to participate in the investigation (see “The conduct of Keith Vaz”). His sudden bout of illness was however not entirely unexpected, as history has shown that Vaz has often proved unwilling to comply with investigations into his alleged misconduct. For example, a parliamentary investigation that was released in March 2001 by the parliamentary standards commissioner, Elizabeth Filkin, explained how:

“In her memorandum the Commissioner drew attention to ‘the failure on the part of Mr Vaz to provide full and accurate answers to certain of [her] questions (in some cases, throughout the inquiry, in others until evidence was produced from other sources)’, and she said she had found it necessary, even where she had not upheld a complaint, to express some criticism of Mr Vaz’s approach to her inquiry.”

But in this instance Vaz was not the only local Labour Party member who had acted to undermine the investigation, and the report continued:

“Mr Colin Hall, Chairman of the Leicester East CLP, threatened a witness with possible disciplinary and legal action because of allegations the witness had made to the Commissioner. We took the view that in putting improper pressure on a witness Mr Hall had committed a serious contempt, and asked him to appear before us to explain his actions. Mr Hall apologised unreservedly for any contempt that had been committed and undertook not to commit any further such actions in the future.

In addition:

“Both Councillor John Thomas and Councillor Piara Singh Clair, officers of the CLP, refused to provide the Commissioner with information that she needed. We experienced delay in getting information from Councillor Singh Clair, and he declined our invitation to appear before us. We conclude that the consistently unhelpful attitude displayed by officers of the CLP was intended to frustrate the Commissioner’s investigation.”

Furthermore, during Filkin’s revealing investigation, important light was shed upon an earlier internal Labour Party investigation into Vaz’s political activities that occurred in 1994. This new information revolved around the revelations made public by Ms Claire Ward, who had “served as a member of a Labour Party inquiry team in 1994 which had been set up by the Party’s National Executive Committee to consider complaints about alleged irregularities in the Leicester City Labour Party.” Filkin’s report described how:

“Ms Ward said that the [1994] inquiry had been publicised and any Party member who wished to do so was able to give evidence in person on a specified day, or to write to the inquiry team. The range of irregularities reported to the team on the day set aside for receiving submissions was such that they decided they needed to meet again to complete their work. They arranged a further day’s hearing, but came to no immediate conclusions and made no report. Ms Ward told me she was surprised when, the next day, the Party’s regional secretary issued a press release announcing that the inquiry was complete and that the membership’s concerns were being dealt with. The press release said: ‘The Panel recognised that there were problems identified in regard to membership and have instructed the Regional Office to take all the necessary constitutional and organisational steps to rectify the problems raised’.”

Yet despite Ms. Ward’s extremely reasonable objections, the internal “inquiry was brought to a premature conclusion and took no decisions on who, if anyone, was responsible for the alleged irregularities in the membership or about the other issues raised by Party members…” A subsequent report published in the Guardian newspaper added more details noting how:

“After the [1994] inquiry was wound up without conclusion, Ms Ward, a member of the NEC and the inquiry team, wrote to Tom Sawyer, then chairman of the Labour party, in 1995, saying:

‘I have now reached the point where I believe that Keith Vaz has been allowed to escape any investigation into the complaints made to the inquiry team by Leicester party members and that he is treating both those members and myself with contempt. I am not prepared to accept that a Labour member of parliament should be allowed to act in such a disgraceful manner. It would appear that others in the party feel intimidated by Mr Vaz and therefore may be cautious of taking any action. I can assure you that I do not take that view. I therefore propose to write to the leader, Tony Blair, advising him of this matter and specifically requesting that he become involved.’”

“In a second letter, seen by the Guardian, to the Labour party’s regional secretary in Nottingham, which was written three months after the one to Mr Sawyer, Ms Ward again accuses Mr Vaz of contempt, intimidation and claims that certain allegations were covered up.” (“Disgraceful and contemptuous – the secret verdict on Keith Vaz,” The Guardian, March 15, 2001)

In March 2000, Sir Peter Soulsby likewise gave detailed evidence highlighting problems with Vaz’s CLP to Filkin’s then onoing investigation. In a lengthy interview Soulsby stated:

“Keith has a very effective, some would say crude, constituency machine which I would say to my knowledge, having been Council Leader for the best part of 20 years, is almost unique in the extent to which it sought to control the selection of council candidates. … His mother was found a safe seat and there are several transcripts and tapes which were taken of him discussing these issues—not taken with his knowledge, I hasten to say, nor with mine at the time—which show the extent to which he was seeking to control the council candidates who came forward for the Labour Party from the wards in his constituency.”

Soulsby also went on to allege that he had evidence that…

“…block memberships were purchased in certain wards by people who in some cases were not aware that they were being signed up to the [Labour] Party. It suggests that Merlyn Vaz, Keith’s mother, who was by about this time a councillor for one of the wards, was personally involved in paying cheques for other people’s memberships.”

Other noteworthy evidence that was later compiled in Filkin’s 2001 investigation was submitted by Paul Gosling, who was a city councillor between 1987 and 1991. Gosling recalled how when he had audited the Labour Party’s accounts in Leicester East with his co-auditor, Mrs Pat Stuttard (of Humberstone Drive, Leicester), they had “declined to approve them as a correct record.” In his evidence submitted to Filkin’s inquiry he wrote:

“We declined to approve the accounts as we did not have full access to the accounts. In particular, we did not have access to the membership records which would verify the main sources of income and we were therefore not in a position to confirm how party income was obtained. I believe—though cannot be certain—that we also did not see the paying-in books showing sources of income. I cannot be definite which year this would have related to but was probably around 1990.”

Surely now, in the year 2022, it is time for the Labour Party to say farewell to Keith Vaz. But sadly such natural justice is unlikely to occur under Sir Keir Starmer’s woeful political leadership, as rather than promoting democracy Starmer is purging any remaining socialists from his party’s ranks (for more on this see my earlier article “Labour Party Members in the East Midlands ‘that sit on their hands and allow injustice to pass them by are an equal to the oppressor’ states the Fire Brigades Union”).

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