Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has defended Keith Vaz after it emerged over the weekend that the Labour MP had paid for sex with escorts.
Vaz has since said that he will stand down as chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, following a Sunday Mirror report into claims that the married father of two had paid for sex with two male escorts.
Speaking to Radio 4's Today Programme
this morning (September 5), Tatchell said that he found it “very difficult to see any public interest justification” for the report into Vaz' personal life, and suspected the story was the result of entrapment.
"As far as I can see he has not broken any laws, or caused anyone any harm,” he said this morning.
Describing the story, which was broken by The Mirror, as a "classic tabloid sting" and a "throwback to the sensationalist tabloid stye of the 1980s," he argued that Vaz' involvement in prostitution shouldn't mean he is unable to continue his role on the Home Affairs Select Committee, which is currently overseeing a review of prostitution laws.
"We don't demand that MPs who buy or own cars step down from committees when they are debating legislation to do with the car industry," he argued.
Tatchell also said that, because of Vaz' "strong" record of supporting gay rights, he could not be accused of hypocrisy.
However, journalist and Attitude editor-at-large Paris Lees has argued that the story is indeed in the public interest, accusing Vaz of hypocrisy over his role in the current sex work legal review, claiming he made comments to her that sex workers were forced into the industry against their will.
Lees, who recently recommended to the Commons Home Affairs Committee that sex work be decriminalised, suggested that if Vaz believes most sex workers are forced into sex work, then he may have used escorts in the knowledge that they may have been victims of exploitation.
Speaking to The Sun
, Paris added: “This is same Keith Vaz who told me, last May, that he ‘couldn’t believe’ I’d never met a prostitute that hadn’t been forced into it.
“I told him that during my time on the game, I never met a prostitute who HAD been forced into it.
“Why is he paying prostitutes for sex if he thinks they are forced into it?
“Maybe I convinced him that, like me, most people do it because they want to do it.
“I was a ‘rent boy’ as a teenager, before I made the transition from male to female.
“He’s leading a review of sex work. Another patronising North London hypocrite.”
Vaz apologized to his wife and children for causing "hurt and distress", while Tory MP Andrew Brigden told the Press Association he would write to the Parliamentary Commissoner for Standards, regarding Vaz' behaviour.
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