During the period where the accusations began to fly in the direction of Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, one of his colleagues could be counted on to cut him some slack, be the voice of sympathy when the brickbats were flying, and that colleague was the still-suspended Simon Danczuk. After today’s round of front pages, it is clear why there might be sympathy from one to the other - they both try and work the media in the same way.
Danczuk has proved adept at maximising his returns from the tabloid press, but at the expense of suffering after the various papers - notably the Mail and the Sun - realised he was trying to play them off against one another. Vaz and his immediate family have also been playing one paper against another, whether deliberately or otherwise, to get their side of a miserably unfortunate story into the public domain.
So while the Sunday Mirror tells readers “Keith Vaz branded a 'liar' by male escorts as they reveal shamed MP offered to fly them around world” (actually a flight to Morocco when it was cheap season), the Mail On Sunday gives us “'I forgive the betrayal - he's been a good husband': Keith Vaz's wife reveals shamed MP is back in their marital bed as she demands health tests over rent boy scandal… and admits she never suspected he enjoyed sex with men”. And there is another angle.
What the Mirror is telling still adds little to last weekend’s revelations when it comes to the all-important public interest justification. The only difference between the Vaz and Whittingdale stories is adultery, and if that is how the tabs justify going after Vaz, they could at least be consistent and nail all the other MPs they’ve got dirt on.
The MoS, though, has gone for the sympathy angle by interviewing Vaz’ wife Maria Fernandes, who has told them “'It was a terrible shock and I am still processing it… Keith is not a bad person, he's just done a terrible thing. It's absolutely terrible because it's affected all of us, because it's affected the kids … But he's a good person, a good father, he's been a good husband and nine-tenths of the time he's got things right. This time he's fallen… badly.’” Her problem is that many in the press don’t agree with her.
Several pundits, not least the Mail’s talentless and unfunny Richard Littlejohn, and former Sun editor Kelvin McFilth, despise Vaz with a passion. For them, the idea of him being “a good person” is something they are unlikely ever to accept. And their editors most likely take a not dissimilar view. That makes this a very high risk strategy.
You only have to look at what happened when the Sun decided to turn on Danczuk to know what is likely to happen when Vaz’ story has no more mileage for the tabloids. Playing one paper off against another, especially with so many of their staff harbouring a loathing for him, will only lead one way. That there is very little worse than what they had on Whittingdale - whom they shied away from covering for so long - is of little importance.
Any more revelations and they will all pile in on Vaz. That is the nature of the beast.