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Another Indian-origin MP in UK shadow cabinet

Valerie Vaz, who entered British parliament in 2010 and retained her seat in the 2015 election, has become the second Indian-origin woman to be inducted in the shadow cabinet led by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

world Updated: Oct 09, 2016 00:17 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
File photo of Labour parliamentarian Valerie Vaz, the second Indian-origin woman to be inducted in the shadow cabinet led by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
File photo of Labour parliamentarian Valerie Vaz, the second Indian-origin woman to be inducted in the shadow cabinet led by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.(valerievazmp.co.uk)

Valerie Vaz, who entered British parliament in 2010 and retained her seat in the 2015 election, has become the second Indian-origin woman to be inducted in the shadow cabinet led by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Vaz, 61, is the sister of senior Labour MP Keith Vaz and represents Walsall South constituency in the west Midlands. Her family traces its roots to Goa.

She has been appointed shadow leader of the House of Commons in the new team put together by Corbyn. This is her first front-bench job since entering Parliament and involves watching complex parliamentary processes on Labour's behalf.

Corbyn appointed human rights barrister Shami Chakrabarti on Friday as the shadow attorney general in the opposition cabinet that is mandated to scrutinise the work of corresponding ministers, develop alternative policies and hold the government to account.

The new appointments in the shadow cabinet were supposed to be a unifying exercise in the party riven by dissensions against Corbyn, but most of his trenchant critics have not found a place in it. The exercise has further strengthened his position but also increased uneasiness within Labour.

The Labour parliamentary party had passed a motion of no-confidence in Corbyn. John Cryer, chairman of the parliamentary party, wrote to Corbyn and reminded him of ongoing talks to allow elections to some shadow cabinet posts while retaining his right to appoint to other posts.

As senior Labour leader Alan Johnson insisted the re-elected Corbyn was still not up to the job of leader of the opposition, Cryer wrote: "It now seems to me that the party's leadership did not engage in the talks in any constructive way...Obviously, I deeply regret this turn of events."

However, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said the criticism of Corbyn was unfair. She told BBC Radio: "The problem is that on the one hand people criticise Jeremy for being weak and taking too long on his reshuffles and yet when he decides that he needs to do one in order to fill vacancies and reach out, people then criticise him for being too decisive and too strong. You can't play it both ways."

It was time, Thornberry said, "we stop fighting among ourselves". She added, "We have a job to do. We were elected to be MPs, represent our constituents and stand up to the government. That's what our priority ought to be and we need to get on with it."