Labour MP looks beyond home affairs as John Bercow plans to stands down by 2018
Labour MP Keith Vaz has told friends that he wants to be the next speaker of the House of Commons.
Exaro can reveal that Vaz, chairman of the House of Commons home affairs committee, is preparing to mount a campaign when John Bercow, the current officer holder, steps down within the next three years.
Bercow told MPs when he stood for election as speaker in 2009 that it was “my commitment to serving no longer than nine years in total”. This means an election for the post by 2018 – midway through the current Parliament.
One Labour MP, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Keith Vaz has two ambitions. He is hoping that he will get a knighthood, and he would like to be the next speaker.
“You can tell this by the way he is slavishly applauding the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, at parliamentary Labour party meetings. He also seems to be tempering his criticism of the Tories.”
A Conservative MP said: “There is no question that Keith Vaz fancies the job of speaker as he is very ambitious. He is very well connected and very friendly with the current speaker.”
Vaz will be disqualified from standing again as chairman of the home affairs committee in the next Parliament in 2020 because he will have been in the post for the maximum time allowed of two full terms.
He enjoyed strong cross-party support when he re-stood for the post this year. He beat his opponent, Fiona Mactaggart, Labour MP, by 412 votes to 192.
He is also well connected in the parliamentary establishment, and is a friend of the current speaker’s. Vaz invited Bercow to his home town’s football club to watch Leicester City play Arsenal in a premiership match on September 26.
He is pictured above in the State Room of the House of Commons last year with Bercow, who presented the global diversity award to Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood actor.
However, Vaz is likely to have strong opposition from Lindsay Hoyle, Labour MP and deputy speaker. Hoyle has a lot of support from Labour MPs, and has some backing among Conseratives.
A second Labour MP said of Hoyle: “He is very organised and has many supporters. I think that if Vaz stood, Lindsay would have quite a lot to say about that.”
Vaz, who has been Labour MP for Leicester East since 1987, would become the first Asian speaker of the Commons.
He stood unsuccessfully to be MP for Richmond & Barnes in 1983, but his parliamentary career began four years later. He rose to become a foreign minister from 1999 to 2001 in Tony Blair’s government, and spent nearly three years on Labour’s national executive committee from 2007.
It is the second time in two years that Vaz has been tipped as a successor to Bercow. His name was circulated in 2013 when there were reports that the Conservatives wanted to replace Bercow after a spate of negative Press reports.
Conservative ministers were also angered by Bercow because he often forced them to explain decisions to Parliament as a result of granting backbenchers’ requests for statements from the government.
On the last day of the previous Parliament, the government tried to change the rules for electing the speaker.
Ministers moved a motion to make the public vote by MPs for the speaker private in future, which was seen as making it unlikely that Bercow would have been re-elected. But the attempt failed.
Vaz denied an ambition to be speaker when his name was tipped previously, saying that he was enjoying the job of chairman of the home affairs committee too much. However, he will not be eligible to remain in that post in the next Parliament.
Asked by Exaro whether he wanted to be the next speaker, Vaz said by text to our reporter: “No, I want to be your PA.”