Was Keith Vaz offered a "reward" to help Brown survive as Labour leader?

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London, July 3 : The number game in the Indian parliamentary system began in the early 1990s when a few MPs were "awarded handsomely" for supporting the then Union Government in a minority. Lately, it seems, the phenomenon has reached across the seven seas to UK too. Recently, a member of the House of Commons was promised a "reward' by his own partyman in return of his vote that led to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's survival as the Labour leader.

The chief whip of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, Geoff Hoon reportedly sent a handwritten note to Keith Vaz, whose vote resulted in Brown's win, thanking him for his crucial vote and promising him "reward" for the same.

Thanks to Vaz's vote, Brown won the key vote by just nine votes.

The day after the key vote on June 12, Hoon sent a handwritten note to Vaz saying: "Dear Keith...Just a quick note to thank you for all your help during the period leading up to last Wednesday's vote. I wanted you to know how much I appreciated all your help. I trust that it will be appropriately rewarded!...With thanks and best wishes, Geoff."

Once the letter was leaked to a UK daily The Telegraph, rumours started making rounds that Vaz, a former minister, may have been offered a knighthood or peerage in exchange for his support to Gordon Brown.

Vaz is the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, and was previously a vocal opponent of the Government's anti-terror plans, but later offered his full backing. He made a major speech during the debate on the proposals which is thought to have won over some backbench MPs. Securing his backing was seen as critical by the Government.

On Wednesday, Vaz vehemently denied that any honour had been offered or that he would accept one.

Hoon's office also insisted the comment was a "light-hearted" remark between two old friends. "We would deny very strongly the suggestion that he's somehow been given something in return for his vote on 42 days. This is a private note between two old friends that included a light-hearted jokey remark. It's obvious it was a joke," the paper quoted a statement issued by Hoon's office, as saying.

Challenging Brown over allegations that rewards had been offered to secure backing in the vote, Opposition leader David Cameroon demanded a reply from the PM, saying "Don't take people for fools. Tell us the truth. What did he [Mr Hoon] mean?" On this Brown insisted: "He (Hoon) was thanking the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee for doing exactly the right thing."

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