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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 21:29 GMT
Viewpoint: Vaz as political target
Keith Vaz
Media speculation about Kieth Vaz continues
Lord Desai is professor of economics at the London School of Economics and is a former Labour Party Treasury spokesman.


By Meghnad Desai

The sudden departure of Peter Mandelson two weeks ago has left a sort of vacuum.

The media speculation about him continues but at a leisurely pace.


He is being attacked not because he is Asian but because he is an MP and a minister

Keith Vaz
We have a hot campaign surrounding Leicester East MP and Europe Minister Keith Vaz.

Many allegations have been made, some old some new - or to change the imagery, some hot and many reheated.

But the issue which has come to the fore over the past few days is the allegation that media coverage is racially motivated - that it is an attack on Vaz largely because he is an Asian.

Some have expressed concern that other Asians, especially Asian businessmen, may be tarred by the same brush as the Hinduja brothers whose name has cropped up in these stories.

No one has proved anything against either Keith Vaz or the Hindujas. We are in the world of allegations and insinuations.

Vaz can defend himself and I am sure he will be able to fully answer all these allegations against him.

But he is being attacked not because he is Asian but because he is an MP and a minister.

We know the pattern because it has happened to others - Jonathan Aitken, David Mellor, Neil Hamilton.

A bloodsport

When the British media get the wind up, hunting down politicians is a bloodsport which rivals fox hunting in the passions it arouses.

If Keith Vaz had been an ordinary citizen not in politics, his dealings with anyone else would not have attracted the attention they have.

Indeed if he were an Opposition MP, the fuss would have been less.

But the facts are that he is an MP and a minister and the election is not far away.

We all know the rules of this blood sport. Indeed, if you want to be an MP you are well advised to have a thick hide.

As Harry Truman once famously said: "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen".

There is an additional difficulty here. Keith Vaz has projected himself as an Asian, if not the Asian politician. It is part and parcel of his image.

It would be difficult for anyone to speak or write about him without mentioning that fact.

But that does not mean that he is being attacked for being an Asian.

It is as a minister, and indeed one in a sensitive portfolio, that he is exposed.

As more Asian and black MPs come in, they will all have to get used to the fact that they are public servants first and black, Asian or white second.

This would be the same if they were doctors, lawyers or in the police force.

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06 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Asians rally to embattled Vaz
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