Tulip Siddiq: ‘I represent Hampstead and Kilburn in Westminster, not the other way around’

Tulip Siddiq makes a point during the General Election Hustings. Picture: Polly Hancock

Tulip Siddiq makes a point during the General Election Hustings. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Politics has always been a family affair for Tulip Siddiq.

With an ancestry that includes the founder of Bangladesh and the country's current president, it's no surprise to hear her family has dropped everything for this election.

Ms Siddiq's sister has cancelled her family, her husband Chris Percy has postponed jobs, and her mum has delayed a trip to visit relatives.

She said Chris had joked: "Can we stop having a baby or an election every year of our lives?

"The toll is huge. Our family is such that when an election is called everyone falls in and helps," she said.

Her son, Raphael, was born earlier this year after Ms Siddiq memorably delayed her caesarean section for a Brexit vote. "People warn you about fighting an election in the cold weather. They don't warn you about fighting an election with two small children."

As the focus on Brexit has become acute, she has styled herself as one of parliament's most pro-remain MPs out there, even taking to wrapping herself in its flag.

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She references voting against Article 50 being triggered causing her to lose her ministerial job and adds that she had experienced "horrendous" abuse for speaking out against Brexit.

She said: "When you are a woman of colour, you're not just a traitor, you're a coloured traitor. You're not just betraying the country, you are betraying the country that gave you a safe home.

"When I rebelled I wanted to make a point that I represent Hampstead and Kilburn in Westminster, not the other way around. That was the first time my constituents thought 'Okay, this woman meant what she said'."

The 37-year-old warns against complacency saying she is scarred by memories of the 2010 election, when Glenda Jackson retained the seat by 42 votes. She fears it has become a three-way marginal once again and a split in the remain vote could see Johnny Luk representing Hampstead and Kilburn.

"Let's say there is a huge split in the remain vote, the Tories can get in. Their vote is more entrenched than people think. In 2010 they said they were going to win, what happened, the seat almost went to a Tory. My worry is that they are going to do exactly the same thing. They will split the remain vote and we risk having a Conservative candidate coming through, particularly one that will support no deal."

One of the causes the MP has championed is that of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She says that the Foreign Office were "close to a break through" before the election was called. "I need to get back in to free her," she says.

She praised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's role when Nazanin's case first arose. He went to her flat not long after her daughter Azalea had been born to speak to Richard.

"He has always been good, he has challenged Boris on it," she said, but admitted like other Labour leaders in her lifetime, she isn't completely happy with Mr Corbyn.

Ms Siddiq endorsed her party's policy on education, and said it could help people in a constituency that has a stark contrast between rich and poor. She adds that she'd like to rejoin the Education department, if she ever stops rebelling.

"The life expectancy of people in South Kilburn compared to Hampstead is completely different. We do have a duty to help people. That starts in funding for schools and early intervention. The fact we are putting money into schools and SureStart is a really big deal. It determines where you end up in life."

Ms Siddiq went to the fee-paying Royal School in Hampstead during her childhood and hits out at the rhetoric from sections of her party over abolishing them as "over the top." She challenges detractors to look at outreach work done by UCS Hampstead or South Hampstead High School.

"There has to be a strategy in making state schools better. It was an ill-thought out policy. Taking away charitable status, I agree with. There should be an onus on private schools to do more."

On the day the Ham&High spoke to Ms Siddiq at Swiss Cottage Community Centre's cafe, the chief Rabbi Ephrahim Mirvis had criticised the Labour Party's response to antisemitism, urging people not to back the party.

Ms Siddiq expressed regret about Labour's record on antisemitism. She said: "I am from a Muslim origin, more culturally than religious. My family have a lot in common with the Jewish community. We know what it's like to be othered. I grew up in Hampstead at the heart of the Jewish community.

"I hope the Jewish community know I regret what has happened. But I believe you stay in the party and fight to get these things corrected.

"Antisemitism should effect everyone because it is not good for the country. It is not the right thing. We need people standing up and saying this is a problem for all of us. I don't want to live in a society where people don't feel safe."

She speaks proudly of her casework record, saying: "My biggest achievements are when you get somebody rehoused, or someone has been fleeing domestic violence and you give them a safe home."

"What gets me up is about giving back. I always knew that whatever happened when I grew up, my parents would look after me. I knew where my next meal was coming from. I took that for granted. I really realised when I was older that it isn't the case for everyone. I'm in a position where I can help people and I need to do that."

Ms Siddiq is hopeful of a Labour victory, and on the doorstep in the Chalcots Estate she comes to life putting forward Labour's case on Brexit and on early years services.

Perhaps next year will be a quieter one for her and Chris.