Valerie Vaz is a British Labour Party politician and solicitor serving as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons in the Shadow Cabinets of Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Keir Starmer since 2016, and has served as Member of Parliament for Walsall South since 2010.
- Full name: Valerie Carol Marian Vaz
- Profession: British politician
- Born: 7 December 1954 (age 65 years), Colony of Aden
- Spouse: Paul Townsend
- Office: Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom since 2010
- Party: Labour Party
- Siblings: Keith Vaz
- Education: Bedford College, London, Sidney Sussex College
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About Valerie Vaz
Valerie Vaz was born on 7 December 1954 in Aden (now part of Yemen). To Anthony Xavier and Merlyn Verona Vaz.
Her family originates from Goa, India, and settled in Twickenham and then East Sheen, London. Vaz is a distant relative of Saint Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century missionary.
Her father, previously a correspondent for The Times of India, worked in the airline industry, while her mother worked two jobs, as a teacher and for Marks & Spencer. Her father died by suicide when she was 16.
Vaz attended Twickenham County Grammar School before going on to Bedford College, University of London, where she completed a BSc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry in 1978.
The same year, she matriculated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to do research, but did not take a degree.
In 1984 she qualified as a solicitor and subsequently worked on legal issues for local government in London. She set up her own law firm, Townsend Vaz Solicitors, and has sat as a Deputy District Judge in the County Court on the Midland and Oxford Circuit.
In 2001, she joined the Government Legal Service, and worked at the Treasury Solicitors Department and the Ministry of Justice. She worked as a presenter and interviewer for the BBC TV programme Network East in 1987.
Vaz was a councillor in the London Borough of Ealing from 1986 to 1990, and the council’s Deputy Leader from 1988 to 1989.
She stood unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate in the constituency of Twickenham in the 1987 general election, and in the 1999 European elections in the East Midlands.
She was a contender to be selected as a Labour candidate for 2000 West Bromwich West by-election, however she failed in her attempt, in the next election she was successful in being selected after winning a women-only shortlist.
She was elected in the 2010 general election, securing the Walsall South seat with a reduced Labour majority of 1,755 (8.2% swing to the Conservative Party).
In June 2010 she was selected as a Labour member of the Health Select Committee. She was also Vice Chairwoman of the Labour Parliamentary Party, having been elected by fellow Labour MPs.
In the 2015 general election, she was re-elected as the member of parliament for Walsall South, with an increased majority of 6,007 (5% swing to the Labour Party).
In the 2015–2017 parliament, she served on the Science and Technology Committee followed by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
In October 2016 she was appointed to Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet as the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons.
In the 2017 general election, she was elected for a third time at Walsall South, with an increased majority of 8,892.
In 2019, she was appointed to the Privy Council. In the 2019 general election, Vaz held her seat with a reduced majority of 3,456.
Personal and family life
Vaz is married to Paul Townsend. The couple have one daughter. Her hobbies include music and gardening.
Her younger brother Keith Vaz was the Labour MP for Leicester East from 1987–2019, while her sister Penny is a lawyer. Her late mother Merlyn Vaz was formerly a Labour councillor in Leicester.