Keith Vaz’s resignation as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee will trigger a battle to chair the committee as it prepares to publish a series of high-profile reports. Among them is the inquiry into prostitution – which threw up the conflict of interest that made Vaz’s continuing role as committee chair untenable in the views of his parliamentary colleagues. But also coming down the pipeline are significant reports into hate crimes, female genital mutilation and the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, which comes under the select committee’s remit, and will form a large part of the new chair’s in-tray.
Allocation of select committee chairs means that the post must be filled by a Labour MP, every MP gets a vote. MPs of all stripes are keen on a female chair, with several tipping Yvette Cooper, a former shadow home secretary, to make a bid, although she thought likely to prefer her role as chair of Labour’s refugee taskforce. Fiona MacTaggart, is an opponent of discrimination and served as a home office minister, ran against Vaz last time and would start with the vital support of the bulk of Labour’s female MPs, party insiders believed.
Also commanding significant cross-party support is Chuka Umunna, who has impressed since being elected on the home affairs select committee, and is being talked up by MPs across the House of Commons. If elected, it would fill up another slot for a Labour MP on the committee, which several MPs tipping Jess Philips, who worked in domestic violence before becoming an MP, for the vacant slot.