1 Oct 2012

Crick’s picks: Keith Vaz and the doorstep challenge

Tonight I finally caught up with Keith Vaz.

The Labour MP, who is chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee was the subject of today’s splash story in the Daily Telegraph.

The paper claimed that eleven years ago the police carried out an investigation into Vaz, and were “suspicious” of £500,000 paid into various banks accounts held by Vaz and his wife.  Serious stuff, especially for the chairman of one of Westminster’s most important committees, who often has to grill top policemen.

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However, Mr Vaz went to ground today, but had to appear this evening to attend a fringe meeting.  And it was there that I got to ask him a few questions.  He would be happy for the police report to be published, he said.  It wasn’t £500,000, he said, and the money was merely the proceeds of selling property in which he lived.

His committee will no doubt want to question him further.

I visited the People’s History museum in Manchester for the first time this afternoon – what used to be the Museum of Labour History (and occupied a different site) – and which also houses the Labour party archives.

Alas, there was no time to take a proper look, but I saw enough to see it was worth a decent visit as soon as I can.

I went to the museum to interview the Labour MP and historian Tristram Hunt about the distinguished historian Eric Hobsbawm, who died today at the of 95.

And as a bonus we found the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who happened to have a copy of Hobsbawm’s work in his pocket – a book The Forward March of Labour Halted, based on his famous essay in Marxism Today (circa 1980) which argued the Left would fail if it carried on relying on its old working class and industrial base.

Kinnock freely told me how he often used Hobsbawm’s work to attack the Bennite left, with Hobsbawm’s connivance, even though the historian was always a member of the Communist party.

Later, I asked Kinnock if he looked back “fondly” on his nine years as leader.  No, he replied, it was “poison”.  It was like driving a supertanker, he said, with “hundreds of nutters on board, and trying to turn it round without splitting the ship in half.”

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