Keith Vaz is a British Labour Party politician who served as the Member of Parliament for Leicester East from 1987 to 2019.
He is the British Parliament’s longest-served British Asian MP. Vaz served as the Minister for Europe between October 1999 and June 2001.
He was appointed a member of the Privy Council in June 2006. He was Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee from July 2007, but resigned from this role on 6 September 2016 after the Sunday Mirror revealed he had engaged in unprotected sexual activity with male prostitutes and had said he would pay for cocaine if they wished to use it.
At the end of October 2016, Vaz was appointed to the Justice Select Committee; a parliamentary vote to block this development was defeated. On 10 November 2019, he said in a statement that he was retiring from Parliament and would not be standing for re-election.
- Full name: Nigel Keith Anthony Standish Vaz
- Profession: British politician
- Former Member of Parliament
- Born: 26 November 1956 (age 63 years), Colony of Aden
- Spouse: Maria Fernandes Vaz (m. 1993)
- Party: Labour Party
- Previous office: Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom (1987–2019)
- Education: Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge (1987)
- Children: Anjali Vaz, Luke Vaz
About Keith Vaz
Keith Vaz was born on 26 November 1956 in the British crown colony of Aden. To Anthony Xavier and Merlyn Verona Vaz.
The Vaz family hailed from Goa, now an Indian state, which accounts for his Goan-Portuguese surname.
Vaz is a distant relative of Saint Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century missionary. He moved to England with his family in 1965, settling in Twickenham.
His father, previously a correspondent for The Times of India, worked in the airline industry, while his mother held jobs both as a teacher and simultaneously part-time in Marks & Spencer. Vaz’s father committed suicide when his son was 14.
Merlyn Vaz moved to Leicester when her son was selected as prospective parliamentary candidate for the Leicester East constituency. She was elected to Leicester City Council as a Labour councillor and served on the council for 14 years.
While in Aden, Vaz was educated at St Joseph’s Convent. In England, he attended Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith, followed by Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied Law. He graduated from Cambridge University with a BA 1st class Honours (1979), later promoted to MA (1987).
Vaz has two sisters, Valerie (b. 1954), who has been the MP for Walsall South since 2010, and Penny McConnell, who is a solicitor. He lives in London with his wife, Maria Fernandes, and their two children, a son and a daughter.
Before his political career, Vaz was a practising solicitor. In 1982, he was employed as a solicitor to Richmond upon Thames London Borough Council; and later as a senior solicitor to the London Borough of Islington.
He was selected as the prospective Labour candidate for the Leicester East constituency in 1985. At that time, he found a job in Leicester as a solicitor at the City Council-funded Highfields and Belgrave Law Centre. He remained in this role until his election to Parliament in 1987.
Vaz has been a Labour party member since 1982. In 1983, Vaz stood in the general election as the Labour candidate in the Conservative-Liberal marginal Richmond and Barnes constituency, coming third with a swing away from Labour of 4.3% compared with a national average swing away of 9.3%. He stood as the Labour candidate in the European Parliament election in 1984 for Surrey West, coming third.
On 11 June 1987, Vaz was elected as the Member of Parliament for Leicester East by defeating the sitting Tory MP Peter Bruinvels with a majority of 1,924. He was re-elected in 1992 (majority of 11,316), 1997 (majority of 18,422), 2001 (majority of 13,442), 2005 (majority of 15,867), 2010 (majority of 14,082), 2015 (majority of 18,352) and 2017 (majority of 22,428).
Vaz has held a variety of parliamentary posts. Between 1987 and 1992, he was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, of which he was the Chair from July 2007 to September 2016. Between 1993 and 1994, he was a member of the Executive Committee Inter-Parliamentary Union. Finally, between December 2002 and July 2007, Vaz acted as a senior Labour Member of the Select Committee for Constitutional Affairs.
In 1992, Vaz was given the role of Shadow Junior Environment Minister with responsibility for planning and regeneration, his first frontbench role. He remained in this position until 1997, when he was given his first Government post as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General and Solicitor General.
Vaz then served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Lord Chancellor’s Department between May and October 1999. This was quickly followed by his appointment as the Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He served in this position from October 1999 and June 2001.
Other positions currently held include as an elected member of the National Executive Committee and as the Vice-Chair of Women, Race and Equality Committee of the Labour Party.
He has held both of these positions since March 2007. Since 2000, he has been a patron of the Labour Party Race Action Group and in 2006 he was appointed the Chairman of the Ethnic Minority Taskforce.
He supported Owen Smith in the 2016 Labour leadership election. He is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.