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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 12:07 GMT
Profile: Keith Vaz
Keith Vaz
Keith Vaz was the first Asian minister in the Commons
Keith Vaz will be hoping that the month-long Commons suspension he faces will be the final chapter in a saga that has dogged his once-promising political career.

Allegations of sleaze and claims of financial chicanery have clung to the Leicester East MP almost since the beginning of his ministerial career in 1999.


I am a leading member, if not the leading member, of the Asian community in this country

Keith Vaz
He has been repeatedly cleared of the more serious claims of wrongdoing levelled at him, including the Hinduja passport affair.

And when the Commons standards committee last pronounced on his affairs, it decided to take no disciplinary action.

But his resignation from the government after the general election, on grounds of ill health, left a question mark hanging over the former Europe minister which Friday's verdict should finally lift.

In the end, it was Mr Vaz's reaction to the investigations - and in particular his refusal to co-operate with Commons Standards Commissioner Elizabeth Filkin - which proved to be his downfall.

But the severity of the proposed punishment will undoubtedly do further damage to his already battered reputation.

Early exit

Mr Vaz's resignation last year was an early exit for an minister, who in 1999 had become the first Asian minister in the Commons.

Newspaper criticism of the MP, including continued calls for his resignation, fuelled claims of media racism from Labour figures such as Lord Desai.

Mr Vaz has certainly been a prominent member of the Asian community since his election to parliament in 1987.

Brushes with controversy

A solicitor, turned barrister, turned MP, Mr Vaz has been described variously as "charming"; "witty, shallow, hardworking"; "kind and generous"; and "a show off".

He once described himself as "a leading member, if not the leading member, of the Asian community in this country."

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, described him as "the most incredible networker I have ever met".

Tony Blair
Blair has promoted and then defended Keith Vaz
Elected by the voters of Leicester East in 1987, Mr Vaz was first appointed to the Labour frontbench five years later as a junior environment spokesman.

Later, as Europe Minister, he was a strong voice in the government's campaign to fight anti-Europe propaganda from the opposition and the Eurosceptic media.

Mr Vaz is a strong pro-European. He came under fire in 2000 after threatening to hound Eurosceptics out of the Labour Party.

In one leaked letter, he was said to write: "We know who you Eurosceptics are and we're coming to get you in your constituencies."

While a backbencher Mr Vaz introduced a number of private members bills into the Commons and has been regarded as a hard working MP.

Strong line against racism

He has taken a strong line against racism and has concerned himself with immigration issues urging successive governments to do more to speed up the application process.

He has been vocal on other matters too. In 1989, he accused Mrs Thatcher's government of a "conspiracy with muggers and rapists" because it had failed to boost police numbers in Leicester.

That same year, Mr Vaz was active in protests against Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses book.

However, he came in for criticism when it emerged that he was leading anti-Rushdie marches one week, only to telephone the author to sympathise the next.

In February 1990, he wrote a piece in the Guardian newspaper urging Salman Rushdie not to publish the book in paperback because "there is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech" and the book had already provoked a huge section of the Muslim community.

Drawing a line

That month, he caused outrage when he suggested that an IRA bomb in Leicester may have been planted by the army.

Mr Vaz denies obstructing Ms Filkin in her investigations into his conduct but the furore over her departure as sleaze watchdog has put the spotlight firmly on how MPs have treated her inquiries.

The last standards committee report found only that he had failed to declare a financial link to someone he had recommended for an honour.

Now the latest findings seem likely to draw a firmer line under the allegations facing Mr Vaz.

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