Ex-UK MP Keith Vaz carried out 'sustained and unpleasant bullying' of colleague

The female complainant suffered lasting psychological damage, says parliamentary watchdog

Keith Vaz carried out a campaign of “sustained and unpleasant bullying” against a female colleague while he was a Labour MP, a UK parliamentary standards watchdog said.

A report by the The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) on Thursday reprimanded Mr Vaz over his “hostile and harmful” behaviour towards the clerk on the Home Affairs Committee, which he led from 2007 until 2016.

Sir Stephen Irwin, chairman of the IEP, said the bullying left a “real and enduring psychological impact” and ultimately forced his victim out of her role in UK Home Office in 2011.

“The respondent's conduct to the complainant was hostile, sustained, harmful and unworthy of a Member of Parliament,” the report said. “He should be ashamed of his behaviour.”

Mr Vaz, 64, who represented the Leicester East constituency for over three decades before he stepped down in 2019, claimed he was too ill to participate in the latter stages of the investigation.

Complainant Jenny McCullough, who agreed to be named in the investigation, came forward with the allegations in 2019 after leaving the Home Office in 2011.

According to the independent report, Mr Vaz mocked her Northern Irish heritage on a trip to the US and claimed she could not work adequately for the committee because she was not a mother. In another incident, he said she reminded him of a prostitute.

The report said that on a trip to Russia in 2008, Mr Vaz insisted on taking a member of his own staff against advice and told Ms McCollough this was because she was “not competent”.

Other episodes also included inappropriate anger, loud and aggressive speech, and demeaning her in front of others.

The IEP said in its conclusion that there could be no justification for Mr Vaz's conduct and ruled his member’s pass to parliament should be removed and never restored.

The committee said: "We consider that this misconduct represented sustained and unpleasant bullying, with a real and enduring psychological impact. It was hostile and harmful behaviour.

“This behaviour exemplifies the kind of conduct identified by Dame Laura Cox in her report of October 2018 which she described as resulting in 'the stifling of potential, the blighting of careers and the loss of talented and dedicated employees, many of them women.''

Updated: September 23rd 2021, 2:44 PM