When the Sunday Mirror splashed the extra-curricular activities of Leicester East’s Labour MP Keith Vaz all over their front page in September, and told the world about his dalliances with male prostitutes, not only did the press and its apologists - hello Iain Martin - assure anyone interested that there was a clear public interest defence in running the story, they also stressed that Vaz had offered to procure illegal substances for his escorts.
Thus the story was totally different from that of former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, whose dalliance with a known sex worker was also well known - to the extent that at least four newspapers had been offered the story and declined to run it - but which was not in the public interest at all, and not because he was stalling on commencement of Section 40 of the Crime And Courts Act, honestly.
And there were drugs, which for the more righteously minded part of the Fourth Estate meant that He Done It. But here a problem entered. As the case of another recent tabloid drug sting - that against Lord Sewel - showed, having a hack prepared to say He Done It, even when accompanied by a series of photos, this is not sufficient proof. The rozzers have to catch the target in possession, and in Sewel’s case they didn’t.
Nor did they catch Vaz. So the Sun’s editorial after Sewel was not prosecuted, which included the mock-outrage “Lord Sewel won’t be charged with drug offences due to a lack of evidence … Lack of evidence? He was pictured on our front page snorting cocaine through a rolled-up bank note … If that’s not incriminating, we’re stumped as to what is”, was more or less the reaction to their failure to nail the hated Vaz.
Hence the Sun frothing “VAZELINE IN THE CLEAR Keith Vaz inquiry closed by Scotland Yard after launching probe into shamed MP’s alleged wrong-doing … Officers were probing whether the MP broke the law with two male prostitutes following allegations made by the Sunday Mirror … Vaz reportedly told one prostitute he would pay for him to buy cocaine to bring to his flat, but said he did not want to use the drug himself”.
Reportedly. Not enough, is it, Murdoch doggies? That did not deter the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail, who have also engaged rant mode: “That's why they call him Mr Vazeline! Labour's Keith Vaz is CLEARED by the cops but now he faces probe by Parliament's sleaze watchdog … Vaz's colleagues in Parliament react with disbelief over decision by police not to charge him”.
How many colleagues? Er, one, actually: “Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, MP in the neighbouring North West Leicestershire seat who has led calls for Mr Vaz to face disciplinary action, told MailOnline: 'I can't believe the police aren't charging him with anything. I'm shocked. It's unbelievable’”. Creeps like Bridgen are, however, not the law, and after Mazher Mahmood’s downfall, neither is the Sun. Nor is the Mail.
The press knows full well what the law says about busting people for drug possession. They know they failed to provide the proof for Sewel. And they know they failed again with Vaz. Disliking someone is not sufficient proof for a prosecution. End of story.