Following the guilty verdict and a warning from the judge that she could face a prison sentence, Labour has officially called for Webbe to quit her seat, which would trigger a by-election. Webbe is protesting her innocence and has made clear that she plans to continue as an MP. “While I’m preparing for the appeal I want to assure the people of Leicester East that I will continue to stand up for them in parliament, fighting on their behalf,” she says, meaning she will continue to collect her £6,827-a-month salary during the months she is on bail awaiting her appeal date. Keith Vaz, however, doesn’t think she will win the appeal and is working to reclaim the seat she took off him after he was disgraced. What have the people of Leicester East done to deserve these rogues?
Vaz has been campaigning hard for the nomination as the Labour Party’s Leicester East candidate, maintaining an office in the constituency which has been full with people out the door all hours; he’s summoning activists one-by-one in preparation for a by-election with himself as candidate. His message is “it’s either me or lose the seat”. One source tells Guido “the interesting thing is he’s been summoning people since Monday, it’s like he knew all along Claudia would be found guilty.” More likely, he was hoping.
Guido is told that Vaz has 2 unofficial constituency offices in Leicester – one on Melton Road and one on Uppingham Road. They are staffed, yet we do not know how they are funded, they compete with Webbe’s own constituency office. The Uppingham Road office Vaz has had in operation for 2 years, since Sunday night it’s had a queue outside to get in, he’s summoning all the Labour members that he controls – they call him “boss” – to further his reselection with the argument “because of her we will lose all this hard work and our representation”, he’s expected to feign an “I didn’t want to do it again but the members selected me, what can I do” stance.
If Labour make the seat an all women shortlist seat, he has his daughter lined up to succeed Claudia. If Starmer bites the bullet and gets the NEC to select a candidate – on emergency grounds – Vaz is explicitly saying they will lose the seat and implicitly hinting he might stand as an independent, guaranteeing Labour lost the seat. If Starmer allows Vaz to be the candidate it will stink of corruption and old fashioned machine politics. The Tories last won the seat in 1983…