UK Politics

Keith Vaz profile: Labour MP and 'Teflon politician'

Keith Vaz Image copyright PA

Keith Vaz, who has resigned as chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee following newspaper reports about his private life, was Labour's youngest MP when he was elected in 1987, and has become one of Britain's best-known politicians.

In his role as chairman, he regularly questioned senior figures and led inquiries on issues including immigration, policing and counter-terrorism.

He has a high profile in the UK media, regularly commenting on stories ranging from Brexit and drug laws to refugees and the ongoing inquiry into child sexual abuse.

But he is also controversial, with critics branding him a self-publicist and calling him a "Teflon" politician for his perceived ability to emerge unscathed from scandals.

Mr Vaz's parents were from Goa in India, but he was born in Aden, a British colony which is now part of Yemen, in 1956.

He moved to Britain in 1965 and later studied law at Cambridge University before becoming a lawyer.

When he became an MP at the age of 30, his website says, he was the first person of Asian origin elected to the House of Commons since 1922.

He has represented Leicester East ever since, and his parliamentary roles have included serving as minister for Europe under Tony Blair.

Mr Vaz, who is married and has two children, was elected Home Affairs Select Committee chairman in 2007 and attracted both praise and criticism for his work in this role.

'Vazeline'

The Independent has called him an "accomplished political operator", though it also said he has been "vilified as a chronic self-publicist".

"No matter how much judicious chairmanship he can boast of at the Home Affairs Select Committee, he is best known for inviting Russell Brand along to talk about drugs and call him 'mate'," it added.

Image copyright PA

Mr Vaz has been referred to in the media as the "Teflon" politician and "Vazeline" - because, in the words of the Telegraph, "nothing sticks".

The paper said he was "seemingly able to brush aside scandals that would have quickly ended careers for others".

In 2001, he was accused of wrongdoing over his dealings with the billionaire Hinduja brothers.

Some of the claims against him were dismissed, but he was suspended from the House of Commons for a month for "serious breaches of the MPs' code of conduct".

In 2009, Mr Vaz repaid £18,949 in expenses amid the scandal over claims made by MPs.

He was criticised for claiming more than £75,000 to fund a second home in Westminster, despite having a family home just 12 miles away in Stanmore.

In a statement about his repaid claims, Mr Vaz said he had stopped all claims for food and, after feedback from his constituents, had decided only to claim when Parliament was in session.

Despite the negative headlines, his media touch is undeniable.

Few politicians would be comfortable dancing Gangnam Style for the cameras, or telling Parliament that Gary Lineker should keep his promise to present Match of the Day in his pants.

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Media captionThe Leicester East MP danced with students at Gateway College in the city

Mr Vaz, who is diabetic, is a long-standing campaigner on a variety of issues including obesity.

In his home affairs role, he was a frequent critic of the government and other authorities.

He has criticised the "shocking" lack of diversity in the police, said the UK Border Agency was "not fit for purpose" and said files on child sexual abuse had been lost "on an industrial scale".

In 2014, he said the UK's immigration system was in "intensive care".

Mr Vaz said the UK's vote to leave the EU was a "crushing decision" which would have catastrophic consequences for the country and the European bloc.

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