Camp Keith was always as fishy as an old sardine: QUENTIN LETTS on Vaz

Camp Keith was always as fishy as an old sardine: QUENTIN LETTS on Vaz’s sordid fall from grace after escort texts scandal

Keith Vaz  was caught meeting two Eastern European male prostitutes, believed to be Poles, for sex

Keith Vaz  was caught meeting two Eastern European male prostitutes, believed to be Poles, for sex
Unfortunately,
it says much about the low expectations of our parliament that blatant
greaser Keith Vaz – most twinkly of charmers yet palpably flawed – was
allowed to become one of its ‘grandees’. How liberally we apportion high
rank and squander our esteem.
For
the past decade he has chaired the Commons committee which oversees
vice, drugs and the police. The sainted Vaz! It was absurd. There were
plenty of questions about Vaz’s personal conduct yet he took
ostentatious delight in roasting Scotland Yard commanders and in
ridiculing serious Whitehall mandarins. Only a few weeks ago he ordered
one top official out of the room like a naughty schoolboy for failing to
be sufficiently honest.
And
Vaz attacked newspaper editors – yes, he enjoyed it. People with stuff
to hide often do. Yet everyone I know at Westminster had doubts about
Vaz. No one would describe him as a monk. The elite could have
marginalised him but instead sat on its suspicions. Why trouble the
little people (the electorate) with qualms about this most unprivy of
counsellors?
I
first came across Comrade Keith a quarter of a century ago when he
announced his engagement to Maria Fernandes. This was, let us say,
deemed enough of a surprise to merit inclusion in a diary column I was
then editing. Camp Keith had by then been in the Commons for a few
years, having replaced the lurid Tory Peter Bruinvels as MP for
Leicester East.
Cambridge-educated,
Vaz had a quick wit and spoke in a fastidiously posh accent. He was
courtly in his ways, a monstrous flatterer, his voice swooping like a
cut-price Lady Bracknell. He could be disarmingly salty about his fellow
Labour MPs – we diarists found this useful – and he was patronising
about his constituents.
He
played minority issues for all they were worth, which went down well
with Asians in his Leicester seat. That identification as a campaigner
for minorities also bought him some political insurance, as did his
frequent mentions that he suffered from diabetes. A little victimhood
ain’t half a useful thing in modern politics.
Back
in the early 1990s I put his flamboyant bitchiness and garrulous
mateyness down to youthful excess and ambition. It is not unknown for
MPs to be egotistical, after all, but most, when they enter Government,
acquire a layer of seriousness. Vaz became Minister for Europe in Tony
Blair’s first term. Despite that significant position, he remained
giggly and silly. He was later dismissed.
Labour MP Keith Vaz, pictured at a party conference event, is well known for his flamboyant style and love of publicity 

Labour MP Keith Vaz, pictured at a party conference event, is well known for his flamboyant style and love of publicity 
The
Home Affairs committee chairmanship in 2007 gave Vaz his second chance.
Here was one of the more sensitive jobs in our public life, bringing
access to various secret documents and a supervisory duty over the
police.
It
also brought publicity, to which he seemed addicted, inviting
high-profile witnesses to give evidence to his committee, even when they
really had little to contribute. It was Vaz who turned Parliament into a
circus when he got that idiot Russell Brand to give evidence to an
anti-drugs inquiry.
Vaz
sashayed round Westminster with Bollywood stars – Shilpa Shetty was
one. Nobody, not least the delightful Shilpa herself, seemed entirely
sure why she was there, but Vaz stuck to her side as though fixed by
glue.
He
held expensive dinners in Soho, when it was never quite clear who was
paying. He seemed to have no shortage of money. He organised the annual
‘Diversity Nite’ dance evening at the Labour party conference when the
main point of the exercise seemed to be photographing Keith Vaz with
some pretty girl baring her belly-button.
Mr Vaz memorably invited comedian Russell Brand to give evidence to the committee  

Mr Vaz memorably invited comedian Russell Brand to give evidence to the committee  

‘Sinister’
was not quite the word for Vaz. If you stood downwind of him you were
more likely to catch a whiff of aftershave and some soapy unisex
unguent. He used this absurd image as a disguise for something, we now
see all too plainly, that was rather less fragrant.
Were
the police scared of him? His conduct of that committee and his
scrutiny of police behaviour was certainly highly political. It was Vaz
who pioneered the modern aggression of select committees. His meetings
became show trials and they ended people’s careers.
He
deployed heavy sarcasm and insincere politeness. He would repeat
questions needlessly, chasing meaningless apologies from slow-talking
officials. He placed tremendous premium on honour and consistency.
Yet you only had to watch for a few minutes to realise that Vaz was himself as fishy as a rotting sardine.

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