Most of us found it very difficult to understand why Keith Vaz was allowed to chair the Home Affairs Select Committee for so long. He was obviously a nasty piece of work. He behaved abominably to witnesses who gave evidence to the committee. He had convinced himself that he was about the most important man in the world. He didn’t care a damn that anyone in the know was well aware that he was just a thug.
But then, after it transpired that he used male prostitutes and paid for others to use illegal drugs, some cheeky MPs thought he might like to consider his position. His use of prostitutes and dealings in illegal drugs were not thought to be good qualifications for the chairmanship of a committee which was investigating male prostitution and illicit drug use. Eventually, it took him quite a long time, he resigned.
But he has bounced back. Very nobly, he offered his services to the Justice Select Committee. The Labour Party supported his application. What that committee needed, Labour decided, was an unscrupulous thug as a member. Because these things are decided in a charming cosy fashion, the Tory whips went along with Labour’s proposal. What does it matter, they said to themselves in the Tea Room of the House of Commons, if that horrid man Vaz gets back onto a select committee?
But one Tory member didn’t grasp the importance of cosy arrangements between whips’ offices. He invited the House to object to Vaz’s membership of the Justice Committee. He thought a man who was under investigation for serious offences was not qualified to be a member of a committee which was meant to be devoted to justice. Poor chap. He got his comeuppance. The government, apparently terrified that Labour might object to Tory nominations to committees, told all its MPs to support Vaz.
And that is why Keith Vaz is now a member (he will be keen to be the most important member) of the Justice Select Committee. The Labour Party should obviously have known better. It should never have supported Vaz’s preposterous application. But Mrs May and her whips must take most of the blame. They were the ones who decided that political expediency had to prevail over principle.