Keith Vaz

Keith Vaz, Brothel Clampdowns and Dark Clouds

When, a few weeks ago, a parliamentary committee – chaired by Keith Vaz MP – declared its support, in an interim report, for decriminalising sex workers, I was sceptical. My scepticism was based, not on inside knowledge of the committee, but on two main things:

  1. The declared purpose of the inquiry was to determine whether clients should be criminalised for paying for sex. But this point was ignored in the interim report. So why was an interim report issued before even considering the most important issue? This remains unclear.
  2. Over recent years, I’ve documented a rising ultra-conservatism which is permeating society, and is prevalent across the entire political spectrum (see my book Porn Panic! for details). Could it be, just as the pendulum is so clearly swinging away from liberal values, that we are about to see sex work fully decriminalised? Much as I’d like to believe that, it seems unlikely.

In the mean time, a couple of things have happened. The sudden downfall of Keith Vaz, following a tabloid sting, has led to him stepping down from the committee. The sting (which involved recording his alleged encounter with two young Romanian men), exposes him as a potential hypocrite (MP IN HYPOCRITE SHOCKER!) and has led to him stepping down from the committee. This was immediately seized upon by abolitionists, who called for the entire review to be scrapped.

Whether it is, in fact, hypocritical to pay sex workers while chairing a committee on sex work, will be left for another discussion. Can one imagine “Hypocrite MP who chaired football enquiry discovered to be Arsenal fan!”? Me neither.

Even more creepy than the carefully planned sting on Vaz was yesterday’s call from the “anti-slavery commissioner” (ugh) for Londoners to shop suspected brothels to the Metropolitan Police. The “sex trafficking” narrative has been escalated to a “sex slavery” one. The new campaign has been accompanied by hysterical language: “…sex workers in the capital were being beaten, raped and sometimes starved by the men controlling them in a form of human slavery that was blighting the capital”.

The coverage neglected to mention the almost total failure of the police to find “sex slaves”. In fact, raids on brothels have been used to arrest and humiliate sex workers, bust them for drug possession, and identify (and then deport) illegal immigrants. In short, the sex slavery hysteria is yet another new cover for the recently merged anti-prostitution and anti-immigration movements. “Rescuing” has become code for “harassing, criminalising and deporting”.

This new, Stasi-type attempt at citizen spying also ignores the fact that Vaz’s parliamentary committee has recommended the decriminalisation of brothel keeping. The police are ramping up anti-brothel raids under a law that is now widely seen – including by parliamentarians – as outdated and redundant.

Not only have illegal immigrants been targeted in this way, but even legal migrants have been targeted for deportation. In May it was reported that Romanian sex workers – EU citizens – are facing deportation on the basis that they are criminals. And their crime? This is unclear, as prostitution is legal in the UK.

So while we appear to be looking at isolated incidents, these events take place in an atmosphere of rising authoritarianism, anti-sex prudery and xenophobia. While Keith Vaz is in no way a libertine, one can predict with confidence that he will be replaced (on the Home Affairs committee) by somebody more socially conservative.

As I document the rising fascism in British society, I frequently check myself: am I cherry-picking to fit my narrative? Have I been swayed by conspiracy theorists? I’d like to discover that my pessimism about the state of society is misplaced. But sadly, I don’t think it is (feel free to reassure me in the comments section below).


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6 thoughts on “Keith Vaz, Brothel Clampdowns and Dark Clouds

  1. Brooke Magnanti, in her excellent book The Sex Myth, demolished the myth of vast numbers of women being trafficked for sex. 40,000 women were said to be going to Germany for the World Cup in 2006. The total number of women known to have been trafficked in the WHOLE Germany and the WHOLE of 2006 (not just Cup venues and the Cup period) was – er – five! Permeating this whole matter is the belief that no normal woman is ever in the sex industry voluntarily and happily, that no woman in the industry is capable of speaking for herself, and that all must be “rescued”.

  2. Have you investigated the part religion plays in this rising fascism. There are groups
    Which have as their agenda to infiltrate any and all organisations to push those orgs
    agendas Toward what is called a ‘christian’ path. This is not conspiracy theory it is really
    Happening. The Internet Watch organisation for example was first started with a fund
    Provider which was a fundamentalist Christian college. The old Bible Colleges all changed
    Their titles in the 1980s and 90s to drop mention of bible or Christianity so as to attract
    Students who were not from fundi backgrounds. There were also moves helped by fundi
    Senators and congressmen to give public funds to these new ‘educational establishments’

    The main man behind Internet Watch was a fundi Christian who eventually became accepted
    By the US government as an ‘expert’ consultant on all matters related to sex abuse etc. This
    Man had former involvement in the FBIs ‘satanic Ritual Abuse’ hysteria in which he never
    Changed his opinions even when the FBI investigation showed nothing.

    In the UK the York Rite of Masonry fought a battle with true Freemasonry in the 1990s
    In which the Freemasons showed publicly that they were exactly what they had been claiming
    Which was a group using rituals believing in a ‘great architect of the universe’ as their God
    And saying anyone of good character could become a Freemason if they believed this even
    Sikhs Muslims Hindus , the difference with Yorkists is that they would only accept Christians.
    They joined together with the scots rite and more ominously the Orange Lodge in the 1990s
    and noughties with a new aggressive agenda, to protect Christian Values in the UK and ensure
    That the Union survives, the monarchy, Protestant assention to the throne, and Christian morality And values. They practice this by deception and infiltration. Their advice to members
    Is to infiltrate local councils, committees, such as licensing and anything in which their own
    Ideas on morality and Christian values can beefed into debate and decision making. Their
    Agenda says that anything is acceptable as a means to the end which is a return of this
    Country to the Good old days in whichbritaonwas a God fearing moral country.

    They’re out their in UK and USA and they are very wealthy and committed.
    If their is a swing to fascism and old nasty moral hysteria it will involve them.

    My own reasons for researching this type of thing is that I am Gay and very left
    Wing and these people hate us LBGTQI even more than they do sex workers.

    1. HI Lisabela, I’m very aware of the role of religion, but my focus is elsewhere for now, for a couple of reasons. I’m based in the UK, where religion peaked a long time ago; probably more than a century. While the religious right is still powerful in the US, that isn’t true here. What is disconcerting in the UK is that a new, secular anti-sex movement has replaced the old religious one. This is broadly the subject of my book, Porn Panic!

      The weird thing is that the new conservative left is taking over the anti-sex role of the religious right. For example, the “liberal” Guardian newspaper is now running campaigns against porn and sex work, while the right-wing Spectator runs articles debunking the porn panic.

      All this actually began in America in the 1980s, when anti-porn feminist campaigners teamed up with the religious right. There is little defence of free speech on the left these days, and increasingly that job is left to the libertarian right.

  3. Brooke Magnanti’s book was given a positive review in The Observer, with reviewer Catherine Hakim concluding:

    ‘Magnanti offers a pretty sharp analysis of sexual politics; who fabricates the myths and why, the role of both right-wing and left-wing media in building up moral panics, the vast sums obtained by pressure groups that profit by them. She details the vast amounts of money wasted on government initiatives directed at non-existent sex problems. These myths are costing us all a lot – financially and in other ways too. Magnanti’s critique of the puritan ideology that still surrounds sex is a timely, persuasive read.’

    All of which sadly hasn’t seemed to have much effect in deterring the likes of The Observer and other opinion formers from believing what they want to believe.

    1. Yeah, the Observer/Guardian is deeply confused on this. There appears to be a powerful clique of journalists with conservative views on sex. The result is that the papers will defend free speech in some cases, and attack it in others. Ironically, Magnanti mentions this in her book: she won Guardian blogger of the year, and then they refused to offer her a column as she offended the sensibilities of some of their journalists

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