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Who does Keith Vaz think he is, Tony Soprano
09:23 GMT, 14 December 2012
The nurse at the centre of the Kate Middleton phone hoax scandal was found hanged, an inquest heard yesterday.
Investigators are examining three letters she left behind, as well as emails and telephone records, but they are satisfied that Jacintha Saldanha’s death was not ‘suspicious’.
Only one mystery now remains: what the hell has any of this got to do with Keith Vaz Since the story broke, Vaz has thrust himself front and centre.
Interest: Keith Vaz's intervention has helped turn a private tragedy into a very public circus
He seems to have appointed himself the Saldanha family’s official spokesman and has taken up the cudgels on their behalf. It isn’t clear how or why Vaz became involved, but even if they approached him, his intervention has helped turn a private tragedy into a very public circus.
Naturally, in a case such as this there is bound to be intense media interest. But was it really necessary for Vaz to parade the grieving family in front of the television cameras outside the Houses of Parliament
He was filmed hugging them theatrically, like Tony Soprano at a Mafia funeral, even though we have no evidence that before last weekend he had ever met them. The family, in their best clothes, looked utterly bewildered as well as understandably bereft.
People have to deal with loss in their own way. But what purpose is served by dragging Mrs Saldanha’s children into the media spotlight
Her 14-year-old daughter Lisha, in particular, is having to come terms with the shattering news that her mother took her own life. Who thought it was a good idea to take her to the room where her mother’s body was found What was that supposed to achieve
Unwittingly or not, the family have been co-opted for the greater glory of Keith Vaz MP. He’s not even their Member of Parliament. The MP for the Bristol constituency in which the Saldanhas live is the Tory Charlotte Leslie, but she has been overshadowed to the point of invisibility by the Labour MP for Leicester East.
Media spotlight: Labour MP Keith Vaz was pictured hugging Jacintha Saldanha's husband Benedict Barboza (left) and son Junal (right)
The only obvious connection between the Saldanhas and Vaz is a common Indian heritage. There are well over a million people of Indian descent living in Britain. Are they all incapable of fighting their own corner without the counsel of the Right Honourable Nigel Keith Anthony Standish Vaz MP
Then again, Vaz has assiduously played the race card throughout his career and survived a succession of scandals which would have finished most politicians.
These include being suspended from the Commons for a month for making false allegations against a former policewoman; giving misleading information to the Commons Standards Committee; failing to register payments totalling 4,500; involvement in the Hinduja ‘cash for passports’ affair; interfering in an inquiry into his friend, the bent solicitor Shahrokh Mireskandari, without declaring an interest; being mixed up with corrupt cop Ali Dizaei; and being forced to repay parliamentary expenses to which he was not entitled.
None of this has prevented him rising to membership of the Privy Council and becoming chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Vaz is the first to lecture the Press, yet he has himself compromised the Saldanhas' privacy by parading them in front of Parliament
Perhaps he thinks his exalted position as one of Britain’s ‘most influential’ Asians entitles him to stick his nose in wherever he chooses. Nevertheless, neither the King Edward VII hospital, nor the Australian radio regulatory system, falls within his remit on the Home Affairs committee.
That hasn’t stopped him demanding an inquiry into the running of the hospital and writing angrily to the Australian parent company of the radio station which caused this scandal. Does Vaz really believe that without his involvement the whole business would have been swept under the carpet
At the heart of this story is the disclosure of sensitive medical information about the wife of the heir to the throne. Even before Mrs Saldanha took her life, the hospital’s procedures and senior management were always going to be taken apart with a surgical scalpel.
As for the Australian end, an inquiry was inevitable, with or without any prompting from Vaz.
The idea that he could have been instrumental in forcing the authorities in Sydney to mount an investigation is beyond preposterous. Quite the opposite, I’d have thought.
‘Hey, Bruce. We’ve got an angry letter here from some bloke called Daz, claims to be an MP in England. What shall I do with it’
‘Tell him to stick his head up a dead bear’s bum.’
Of course, it is entirely possible that the Saldanhas are deeply grateful for the involvement of such a well-known politician. At a time of bereavement, support from any quarter is appreciated.
Tawdry: Vaz invited Russell Brand to give testimony on the legalisation of drugs to his Home Affairs Select Committee
Because of the high-profile nature of this case, they were never going to be able to tick the box marked ‘no publicity’. In the wake of the Leveson Report, however, there was not the slightest chance that any newspaper would overstep the mark.
Vaz is the first to lecture the Press, yet he has himself compromised the Saldanhas’ privacy by parading them in front of Parliament. Mind you, consistency isn’t one of his strong points.
Today Vaz is railing against the DJs who made the hoax phone call which led to Mrs Saldanha’s sad death. Yet he is the same man who invited Russell Brand to give ‘expert’ testimony on the legalisation of drugs to his Home Affairs Select Committee.
Yes, the same Russell Brand who was responsible for Britain’s most notorious radio phone hoax scandal when — together with Jonathan Ross — he rang up the actor Andrew Sachs and boasted about having sex with his granddaughter.
Still, Brand’s absurd appearance at Westminster helped keep Vaz’s name up in lights, which was the main purpose of this tawdry exercise.
When I saw Vaz preening himself outside Westminster Coroner’s Court yesterday, the thought occurred yet again: what the hell is he doing there Vaz says the Saldanhas asked him to attend.
Let’s just call his involvement ‘suspicious’.
The MoD has just published a list of items taken from bases in Norfolk. RAF Marham and the home of the Light Dragoons, at Swanton Morley, have both been hit. Thieves got away with thousands of gallons of diesel, along with military kit including electronic jamming equipment, a laser targeting system, night vision goggles and computers.
But my eye was caught by two other items on the list — a karaoke machine and a stash of Viagra.
Thieves: The MoD has published a list of items taken from bases in Norfolk, which includes a stash of Viagra
Why is the RAF doling out Viagra Now that the Harrier fleet has been flogged off, do they feed it into other jet engines to give them extra thrust and help them make a vertical take-off
The official explanation is that the drug helps combat air sickness. So do air sickness tablets, without the other beneficial side-effects. Anyway, that’s their story and they’re sticking to it. I have visions of late-night karaoke sessions at RAF Marham, with Viagra-crazed air crew chasing WAAFs round the mess.
Watch out, here comes Tail End Charlie!
Sublime: The latest Tesco adverts feature a selection of classic pop and soul songs, including one by Aaron Neville
We’re used to ‘creatives’ purloining pop songs for advertising campaigns. Nothing wrong with that when the music fits the message — such as the use of Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine in that famous Levi’s 501 commercial.
But when they hijack the soundtrack of our lives to sell everything from toilet ducks to groceries, they destroy the romance and pollute our memories.
The latest Tesco adverts feature a selection of classic pop and soul songs, including one by the sublime Aaron Neville.
This is the kind of music people fall in love to. It may remind them of a first kiss. But after the Tesco campaign, the only thing anyone is going to associate Aaron Neville with is a Brussels sprout.
Parking Pataweyo: The Panto
Opinion is divided over the police officer who interrupted a school nativity play at Smallfield, Surrey, to order parents to move their cars.
Some accuse PC Paul Barker of being petty-minded and a killjoy. Others hailed him a hero for standing up to selfish motorists who had parked their 4x4s on the pavement.
You pays your parking ticket, you takes your choice. But it’s given me an idea for next year’s play, based on a popular character from the latest Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse series.
Parking Pataweyo: The Panto. He’s behind you!
Don’t save the last dance for me . . .
From Blackburn comes news of Britain’s first Gangnam fatality. Eamonn Kilbride, 46, collapsed with chest pains and died after performing the Korean dance craze at his office Christmas party.
For the uninitiated — and that includes me — this apparently involves galloping round the dance floor as if you’re riding a horse.
Our thoughts go out to Mr Kilbride’s family, but this is a timely reminder of the inherent dangers faced by men of a certain age when they venture on to the dance floor.
Over the years, casualty wards have been inundated with revellers injured while attempting everything from the Twist to the Funky Chicken.
The Gangnam craze would appear to be particularly dangerous. Professor Bernard Keavney, a consultant cardiologist at Newcastle University, said older men ‘shouldn’t stray outside your comfort zone’.
Sounds good to me.
So if your loved one tries to drag you on to the floor this Christmas, chaps, you’ve got the perfect excuse to keep propping up the bar.
‘I’d love to dance with you, dear, but I can’t. Doctor’s orders.’