Leicester East MP Keith Vaz’s wife has said she will forgive her husband despite feeling betrayed after the UK’s longest-serving Asian MP was embroiled in a scandal involving male prostitutes.
Maria Fernandez said last weekend that she had decided to give Vaz a second chance after The Sunday Mirror reported that the 59-year-old paid for two male prostitutes and made references to drugs.
“The shock was also the whole scenario of allegedly using sex workers because it is so unlike him,” she was quoted as saying.
The 57-year-old former barrister has two children with Vaz. “Keith is not a bad person,” she said, adding, “he needs to change or he’ll be slung out”.
Her comments came as it emerged that police in the Labour MP’s constituency had been looking into claims of misconduct.
According to a Sunday Times report, four witnesses, including a former lord mayor of Leicester, confirmed they had been interviewed by detectives.
The inquiries have been going on for at least a year. Police refused to comment on whether Vaz was under investigation or if the witnesses were being interviewed as part of a wider inquiry.
Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, said he had been aware of inquiries by police involving Vaz since last summer. He said that John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, had declined to raise the matter with the force.
A spokesperson for Bercow denied that there had been any cover-up.
Meanwhile, some of Vaz’s disgruntled constituents demonstrated outside his parliamentary headquarters in Leicester East last Friday (9), demanding that he quit as their MP.
Sujata Barot, of the Belgrave Community Neighbourhood Watch group, said: “He has apologised to the Home Affairs Select Committee but he has not apologised to us yet.
“You cannot wash this dirty laundry in the media and be done with it. We feel embarrassed, we feel ashamed, and we don’t want to go through this.”
Vaz had been due to chair a panel debating local health issues in Leicester – but did not show up last Friday (9).
Labour MP Caroline Flint is among three candidates reportedly considering replacing Vaz as chair of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee. Flint said: “The resignation is a tragedy for Keith and his family, but his work as chair of the committee has been widely praised.
“This committee now requires an experienced, independent-minded chair to take its work forward.”
Chuka Umunna and Yvette Cooper are also said to be considering standing for the post. Conservative’s Tim Loughton is the interim chair as MPs prepare to elect the new chair with a secret ballot over the coming weeks.