For nearly a quarter of a century, Keith Vaz MP has been allowed to use blocking privileges, dishonest health claims, Labour fears of cultural backlash and Establishment blind eyes to evade punishment for his alleged crimes of sexual and financial corruption. The ease with which he has done this brings shame to our country, and confirms what most thinking commentators believe: that Britain’s élite is beyond redemption.
About ten years ago, I was having an enjoyable drink with a soon-to-retire West End London detective. We’d been introduced by an intermediary in the Met, and on this particular evening I was asking, at a quiet corner table, what he knew about nefarious activities at the Groucho Club, the Groucho’s then management, Jeremy Hunt, the alleged hacking of mobile phones by News International, and Russian influences of a malign nature in the City.
As it happens, he didn’t know much about any of it. But he had some entertaining anecdotes, and overall struck me as a straight copper. He freely admitted that the Met Police was “more bent than Uri Geller’s spoon collection” but said he’d felt increasingly frustrated by the ease with which British politicians could throw their weight around and get investigations stopped.
“Is there any MP you felt bad about not being able to nick?” I asked him.
“You bet,” he replied, without pausing for breath, “Keith f**king Vaz”.
Obviously I was aware of Vaz, but chiefly in his adopted role of rentagob every time he found what he thought was malpractice, or racial prejudice. So I asked my contact to enlarge a little. An hour later, we were still in the pub.
So much for hearsay. But in the months that followed, I took every opportunity that came my way to ask those even remotely connected to power what they made of Mr Vaz. He didn’t come out of it terribly well. But then I got distracted by celeb accusations against Murdoch journalists and the medications being taken by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Keith Vaz disappeared off my radar.
During the first Blair administration, Vaz served as the Minister for Europe. He held the post from October 1999 until June 2001. Early in 2001, he refused to cooperate with a parliamentary investigation into his business affairs being led by the then commissioner into parliamentary standards, Elizabeth Filkin.
Reliable Labour sources at the time alleged that Tony Blair hesitated during several weeks on the subject of the Minister’s suspicious behaviour, because the Blairite entourage feared a backlash from the largely Labour-voting Indian community. But in the end, Vaz was fired.
However, the truly bizarre sequel was that – despite Vaz’s refusal to cooperate with Filkin – and the Commissioner admitting that “several issues remained unresolved” – he was allowed to keep his seat in Parliament.
Filkin’s own background is heavily Left-biased: she began as a lecturer and community worker at the National Institute for Social Work between 1968 and 1971, then worked as a community work services officer in the London Borough of Brent (1971–75) before lecturing in social studies at the University of Liverpool (1975–83).
But even she clearly felt that Keith Vaz had a case to answer. Filkin was later ousted by shady MPs who found her style “combative”, which is very probably Westminster-speak for “effective”. Later, she led an inquiry related to the News International phone hacking scandal, and “recommended changes to links between the police and the media, including how to extend transparency.”
Most of her recommendations were ignored; most of the people she investigated went on unhindered. Rebekah Brooks remains the CEO of Murdoch’s hastily rebranded media Empire of Evil.
Vaz too continued merrily on his way, the family/East Midlands Labour mafia ensuring that his sister Valerie Vaz became an MP at the 2010 General election.
But it wasn’t long before Keef was under another cloud. In 2016, he was caught by the tabloid press in a coke-fuelled laison with rent boys while chairing a Parliamentary Investigation into vice.
But the investigation into whether the senior MP Keith Vaz ‘broke parliamentary rules’ by paying male escorts – are they kidding? – was suspended in late 2017 for medical reasons. Kathryn Hudson the Standards Commissioner confirmed this on the Government website….but the word used was “suspended” (not closed) – and Hudson vowed that “inquiries will continue”.
Nothing whatsoever has emerged since then, except that Vaz made a dramatic recovery from his “health problems”
Despite such problems, Mr Vaz has since taken part enthusiastically in a number of engagements – including travelling nearly 5,000 miles to India, and taking a trip to Saudi Arabia.
I made that same round-trip three months ago, and even with no health issues, it knackered me.
Hmm. Now the parliamentary standards watchdog is facing calls to reopen its inquiry into Mr Vaz.
But it doesn’t end there.
Three weeks ago, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen wrote to Lynne Owens, head of the National Crime Agency, requesting that she open an inquiry into Keith Vaz via an “unexplained wealth order” . This suggests the use of a measure introduced in the Criminal Finances Act during 2017. Referring to Vaz’s alleged health issues, Bridgen claimed online, “If he’s not fit enough to be a parliamentarian, we should be expecting a by-election in Leicester East”.
The substance of Bridgen’s request is real enough: the tax paid and salary earned by Keith Vaz doesn’t square terribly well with the MP’s amassing of a UK property empire valued at over £4m, despite earning a salary of around £90,000 per annum.
Perhaps – as with “Lord” Petty Manglesum – he is fortunate in his choice of benefactors. Or perhaps, like Fondlebum of Boy, he’s something of a wide boy.
Either way, the depressingly corrupted nature of Britain’s institutions does not give me great faith n what Lynne Owens at the NCA may or may not do. Once Numero Uno in the Surrey police force (see myriad Slogs passim) Owens had been held “personally responsible” by Surrey’s police and crime commissioner Kevin Hurley for a litany of failings. Hurley declared two years ago that he had lost confidence in Mrs Owens, and was considering starting the formal process, known as Section 38, that could have led to her dismissal, according to the BBC.
Hurley’s concerns involved Owens’ handling of domestic abuse and female genital mutilation cases. Ah, right then: so Lynne is yet another leader in diversity. And Keith Vaz being – if nothing else – diverse can thus aspect light or no action in the case.
Keef’s sister Val, meanwhile, has consistently voted to increase the tax rate on salaries over £150,000. If even MPs on the meagre annual salary of £90,000 can amass £4m in wealth without their tax bill increasing very much, I would suggest she has a very good point.
Perhaps she should talk to her brother about it.
The broader issues raised by this post ought to be clear enough:
- The rule of Law is not applied equally any more in the UK
- Our democracy is riddled with crony and nepotist corruption
- The powerful have nothing to fear from the British police and judiciary
- The Labour Party is more than happy to protect its culturally diverse MPs from prosecution.