Valerie Vaz

Valerie Carol Marian Vaz[1] (born 7 December 1954) is a British Labour Party politician and solicitor serving as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Walsall South since 2010. She served as the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons from 2016 to 2021 in the Shadow Cabinets of Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer.

Valerie Vaz

Vaz in 2020
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
In office
6 October 2016  9 May 2021
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Keir Starmer
Preceded byPaul Flynn
Succeeded byThangam Debbonaire
Member of Parliament
for Walsall South
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byBruce George
Majority3,456 (8.1%)
Personal details
Valerie Carol Marian Vaz

(1954-12-07) 7 December 1954 (age 66)
Aden Colony (now Yemen)
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Paul Townsend
RelationsKeith Vaz (brother)
Children1 daughter
Alma materBedford College, University of London
WebsiteOfficial website


Vaz was born in Aden (now part of Yemen) to Anthony Xavier and Merlyn Verona Vaz.[2] Her family originates from Goa, India, and settled in Twickenham and then East Sheen, London.[3] Vaz is a distant relative of Saint Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century missionary.[4] Her father, previously a correspondent for The Times of India,[5] worked in the airline industry, while her mother worked two jobs, as a teacher and for Marks & Spencer. Her father died by suicide when she was 16.[6]

Vaz was privately educated at Twickenham County Grammar School[3] and later Bedford College. She attended the University of London, where she completed a BSc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry in 1978.[7] The same year, she matriculated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to do research, but did not take a degree.[8][9]

In 1984 she qualified as a solicitor[3] and subsequently worked on legal issues for local government in London. She set up her own law firm, Townsend Vaz Solicitors,[3] and has sat as a Deputy District Judge in the County Court on the Midland and Oxford Circuit.

In 2001, she joined the Government Legal Service, and worked at the Treasury Solicitors Department and the Ministry of Justice. She worked as a presenter and interviewer for the BBC TV programme Network East in 1987.[3]

Political career

Vaz was a councillor in the London Borough of Ealing from 1986 to 1990, and the council's Deputy Leader from 1988 to 1989. She stood unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate in the constituency of Twickenham in the 1987 general election, and in the 1999 European elections in the East Midlands. She was a contender to be selected as a Labour candidate for the 2000 West Bromwich West by-election but was not selected.[10] She went on to be selected as the prospective Labour candidate to be MP for Walsall South after winning a women-only shortlist.[11]

She was elected in the 2010 general election, securing the Walsall South seat with a reduced Labour majority of 1,755 (8.2% swing to the Conservative Party).

In June 2010 she was selected as a Labour member of the Health Select Committee.[12] She was also Vice Chairwoman of the Labour Parliamentary Party, having been elected by fellow Labour MPs.

In the 2015 general election, she was re-elected as the member of parliament for Walsall South, with an increased majority of 6,007 (5% swing to the Labour Party). In the 2015–2017 parliament, she served on the Science and Technology Committee followed by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. In October 2016 she was appointed to Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet as the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons.[13]

In the 2017 general election, she was elected for a third time at Walsall South, with an increased majority of 8,892.

In 2019, she was appointed to the Privy Council. In the 2019 general election, Vaz held her seat with a reduced majority of 3,456.

She continued in her role as Shadow Leader of the house after the election of Keir Starmer as the Leader of the Labour Party.

She returned to the backbenches on 9 May 2021 in the 2021 British shadow cabinet reshuffle

On 24 May 2021, Vaz was criticised after she suggested that the condition of Boris Johnson was exaggerated when he was in intensive care with COVID-19.[14]

Personal and family life

Vaz is married to Paul Townsend.[3] The couple have one daughter.[3] Her hobbies include music and gardening.[3] Her younger brother Keith Vaz was the Labour MP for Leicester East from 1987 to 2019, while her sister Penny is a lawyer.[6] Her late mother Merlyn Vaz was formerly a Labour councillor in Leicester.[15]

She is a Catholic.[16]


  1. "Profile: Valerie Carol Marian Vaz". UK Who's Who. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  2. "Vaz, Valerie Carol Marian – WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO". doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U251368. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  3. "About Valerie". Valerie Vaz MP. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  4. "Relative of British MP to become Sri Lanka's first saint |". Archived from the original on 20 September 2014.
  5. editor, Helen Pidd North of England (4 September 2016). "Keith Vaz: one scandal too many for the publicity-seeking MP". Retrieved 14 March 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. Laville, Sandra (2 January 2013). "Keith Vaz on Jacintha Saldanha's children: This could be me 42 years ago'". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  7. "Election highs for Royal Holloway alumni". Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  8. The Cambridge University List of Members up to 31 December 1991, Cambridge University Press, p. 1394
  9. "Personal website autobiography". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  10. Andy, McSmith (18 September 2000). "Labour bristles over favourite to follow Betty". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  11. "All-Women Shortlists". Labour Women's Network.
  12. Pickard, Jim (24 June 2010). "Westminster select committees: Labour & Tory membership". Financial Times. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  13. "Valerie Vaz MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  14. Merrick, Rob (24 May 2021). "Labour MP claims Boris Johnson's Covid condition was exaggerated because he was 'not at death's door'". The Independent. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  15. Walker, Tim (22 April 2010). "General Election 2010: Joanne Cash says every dog has its day". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  16. Lee, Ceridwen (7 August 2015). "Fall in number of Catholic MPs in the House of Commons ahead of landmark debate on assisted dying". The Tablet. Retrieved 13 January 2020.