ASTONISHING news just in: Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz has been in the newspapers and on the television this weekend explaining how he is “astonished” by revelations that the GCQH listening post might have been spying on personal data collected by Google and other search engines.
Fair enough, it’s a pretty astonishing story but, remember, an astonished MP is a reporter’s best friend. We need them. Maybe it’s a joke that he is in on with journalists higher up the food chain, who see him as a reliable go-to man for “astonishing” comment, but Keith seems to spend a lot of his life being astonished. Some might even say that a news story isn’t a news story until it has astonished Keith Vaz.
In January 2007, when Big Brother producers Endemol bid to take on Question Time, Keith said: “I’m astonished at this. In the current climate it would be totally inappropriate for a company that’s been so criticised by so many people and had so many complaints.”
In May 2008, when terrorism legislation was apparently being used to crack down on more mundane offences, Keith said: “I’m astonished that this legislation is being misused in this way in cases which seem to be petty and vindictive.”
In July 2008, after a BBC investigation into illegal immigration in west London, Keith said: “I’m astonished with the amount of money that’s gone into enforcement that the Immigration Minister has not taken a much greater interest in what is going on.”
In September 2009, when a drinks company wanted to bring out a product called Simply Cocaine, Keith said: “I am astonished to see that a product of a similar fashion with such an inappropriate message could be allowed to be manufactured in Derby and sold throughout the UK.”
In October 2009, when a map of parliamentary buildings surfaced on the internet, Keith said: “I’m astonished that so much detail has been provided on the internet.”
Also that month, when two of his constituents were arrested in India after a fight at a wedding, Keith said: “I am astonished at what has happened. In very good faith this family went over to celebrate a wedding and now the groom is in custody.”
In February 2010, when British secret services were drawn into a row over collusion in torture, Keith said: “I’m astonished that counsel for the foreign secretary should be able to write to a supreme court judge to remove paragraphs.”
In June 2011, when thieves were found to be operating in parliamentary buildings, Keith said: “This should be one of the most secure buildings in the country so I’m astonished at these figures (on the number of thefts).”
In September 2011, when the Tories and the Lib Dems seemed to be arguing over the timetable for the elections for police commissioners, Keith said: “I’m astonished at this change of plan.”
In March 2012, when the EDL were out marching in the Midlands, Keith said: “I find it astonishing that Leicestershire Constabulary should foot the cost of yet another EDL march when they are already under pressure to make cuts to their budget.”
In July last year, when it was claimed the Border Agency had lost track of 160,000 illegal immigrants, Keith said: “I am astonished the UKBA has no idea where 159,000 individuals have gone since the applications were rejected.”
Then in January, when Stephen Lawrence’s brother Stuart told how he had been harassed by police, Keith said: “I am astonished at the way in which Stuart Lawrence seems to have been treated.”
In March, as Olympics security boss Nick Buckles quit his job with a large goodbye settlement, Keith said: “I am astonished by the level of his farewell package.”
Also, earlier this year, when asked about the Rochdale abuse inquiries and warnings from a police officer, Keith said: “I’m astonished that a serving officer of Greater Manchester would feel that the only way to draw attention to the lack of process is to leave the force.”