'Teflon' Keith Vaz re-elected UK house panel chair

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jun 18, 2015 19:09 IST

Recent revelations in the British press about senior Labour MP Keith Vaz’s role in the Lalit Modi-Sushwa Swaraj row failed to affect his political profile as he was declared the elected chairman of the powerful Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons on Thursday.

Vaz, 58, who held the same position in the last parliament, was pitted against Fiona Mactaggart. The Sunday Times had published details of his intervention in securing travel papers for Lalit Modi before his election to the post, but it did not seem to affect his prospects.

Vaz’s bid for re-election as chairman was boosted by the decision of the parliamentary standards commissioner not to open an investigation against him, after he was reported by Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen for allegedly misusing his position in the Lalit Modi case.

Vaz was the chairman of the committee in 2014 when he reportedly wrote to Sarah Rapson, director-general of UK visas and immigration, on behalf of Modi to make his travel papers available.

His re-election ensures that he survives another controversy in a career marked by several rows, including the one related to Vaz allegedly writing to the Home Office to expedite the applications of Hinduja brothers for British citizenship in 2001.

Dubbed a ‘teflon’ politician for his knack of bouncing back after controversies, Vaz is the longest serving MP of Indian/Asian origin, being first elected to the House of Commons in 1987. He is one of the most visible individuals in Britain during events and issues related to the Indian community.

Born in Yemen in 1956 to Goan parents, Vaz has close links with several Indian politicians and celebrities, including the Bachchan family. One of his leading campaigners before the May 7 election was Abhishek Bachchan, who participated in a road show in Leicester.

After The Sunday Times first reported the controversy based on ‘leaked correspondence’ on June 7, on the same day, Vaz announced on his website that his emails had been hacked into.

He wrote, “I have recently become aware that my email address may have been hacked and confidential emails may have been downloaded. The hacking of computers is a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.”

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