Keith Vaz will not stand for re-election amid suspension row

By PA Reporter

Labour’s Keith Vaz has announced his retirement from Parliament after 32 years as an MP for Leicester East.

It comes just weeks after the Commons Standards Committee recommended he should be handed a six-month suspension for causing “significant damage” to the reputation of the House.

The 62-year-old was found to have expressed a willingness to purchase cocaine for others during an encounter with male prostitutes.

Mr Vaz subsequently faced calls to step down, including from within his own party, while he was also under threat of having the Labour whip removed.

He announced his retirement on Sunday evening, saying he will not stand in next month’s General Election.

Mr Vaz added the people of Leicester “will always be in my heart”.

In a statement, he said: “I have decided to retire after completing 32 years as the Member of Parliament for Leicester East.

“In that time I have won eight general elections. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve my constituency since I came to the city in 1985.

“I want to thank the people of Leicester East for their absolute loyalty and support.”

Jeremy Corbyn said Mr Vaz’s work in Parliament was ‘exemplary’ (Aaron Chown/PA)

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Keith Vaz was among the pioneering group of black and Asian Labour MPs elected in 1987.

“I was proud to support his selection and incredibly proud when he won, taking the seat from the Tories.

“Keith has made a substantial and significant contribution to public life, both as a constituency MP for the people of Leicester and for the Asian community across the country.

“He has helped to pave the way for more BAME people to become involved in politics.”

Mr Corbyn added: “His work in Parliament has been exemplary as Britain’s first Asian-origin minister, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, a campaigner on diabetes issues and most recently trying to help the peace process in Yemen.”

During the committee hearing in October, the Commons disciplinary body said his explanation that he may have been given a “spiked” drink and that he was suffering from amnesia was “not believable and, indeed, ludicrous”.

A statement on Mr Vaz’s website said he was admitted to hospital on the day the committee’s report was published.

It said he had been receiving treatment for a “serious mental health condition” since details of the encounter were published in the Sunday Mirror in 2016.

MPs had endorsed the recommended suspension without a formal vote.