Keith Vaz, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1987 and went on to win eight subsequent elections, on Sunday announced his retirement amidst questions about his candidature for the December 12 election and his role in a drugs and sex row.
Vaz, 62, is of Goa origin and has been a well known figure in the Indian community in the UK, besides casting links with leading politicians and others in India.
Well known Indian actors have travelled to his constituency of Leicester East to campaign for him during elections.
A senior Labour MP, Vaz 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 honor 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. Leicester and especially the people of Leicester East will always be in my heart.”
Vaz faced suspension for six months after the Commons Standards Committee recently found that he had damaged the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons with his actions revealed in a British sting operation in 2016.
He was a candidate from Leicester East for the December 12 election, but senior Labour leaders such as Diane Abott suggested that he step down voluntarily so that the controversy around him does not become a distraction during the election.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Vaz’s decision to step down: “Keith Vaz was among the evolving 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 (black and minority ethnic) people to become involved in politics”.
“His work in Parliament has been perfect, 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. And our work together to combat racism and bring our diverse communities together is far from over.”
A former minister for Europe (1999-2011) in the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair , Vaz has been involved in several controversies during his parliamentary career, but always bounced back to return to frontline politics. He was most recently chair of the influential Home Affairs Committee.