Valerie Carol Marian Vaz (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.
|Shadow Leader of the House of Commons|
6 October 2016 – 9 May 2021
|Leader||Jeremy Corbyn |
|Preceded by||Paul Flynn|
|Succeeded by||Thangam Debbonaire|
|Member of Parliament|
for Walsall South
|Assumed office |
6 May 2010
|Preceded by||Bruce George|
Valerie Carol Marian Vaz
7 December 1954
Aden Colony (now Yemen)
|Relations||Keith Vaz (brother)|
|Alma mater||Bedford College, University of London|
Vaz was born in Aden (now part of Yemen) to Anthony Xavier and Merlyn Verona Vaz. Her family originates from Goa, India, and settled in Twickenham and then East Sheen, London. Vaz is a distant relative of Saint Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century missionary. Her father, previously a correspondent for The Times of India, 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.
Vaz was privately educated at Twickenham County Grammar School and later Bedford College. She attended the University of London, where she completed a BSc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry in 1978. The same year, she matriculated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to do research, but did not take a degree.
In 1984 she qualified as a solicitor and subsequently worked on legal issues for local government in London. She set up her own law firm, Townsend Vaz Solicitors, 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.
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. She went on to be selected as the prospective Labour candidate to be MP for Walsall South after winning a women-only shortlist.
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.
In the 2017 general election, she was elected for a third time at Walsall South, with an increased majority of 8,892.
She returned to the backbenches on 9 May 2021 in the 2021 British shadow cabinet reshuffle
Personal and family life
Vaz is married to Paul Townsend. The couple have one daughter. Her hobbies include music and gardening. Her younger brother Keith Vaz was the Labour MP for Leicester East from 1987 to 2019, while her sister Penny is a lawyer. Her late mother Merlyn Vaz was formerly a Labour councillor in Leicester.
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- 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.
- Walker, Tim (22 April 2010). "General Election 2010: Joanne Cash says every dog has its day". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- 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.