‘I’m not a robot’: MP Tulip Siddiq tells CNJ why she felt she had to quit over Brexit vote
EXCLUSIVE: Tulip Siddiq speaks for first time about resignation
27 January, 2017 — By Richard Osley
Tulip Siddiq resigned from Labour’s front bench last night
HAMPSTEAD and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq today (Friday) said that the parliamentary whip system needed reform after she felt forced to walk away from Labour’s shadow front bench over her stance on Brexit.
In an interview with the New Journal, she also said her resignation as shadow early years minister was “not about Jeremy Corbyn” and that she still believed Labour MPs should support the party’s leader in the wake of two leadership victories.
She resigned yesterday insisting she could not follow a three-line whip sent down from Mr Corbyn’s office ordering Labour MPs to vote in favour of triggering Article 50, the mechanism which starts the Brexit process.
Nearly 75 percent of Camden voters who took part in last June’s EU referendum voted to Remain, and Ms Siddiq said she owed it to her constituents to represent their views in the debate.
Even if Labour’s parliamentary amendments are agreed, she said she still would not vote in favour of Britain leaving the EU.
She said today: “I have put myself forward to speak against Brexit in the debate in Parliament on Monday or Tuesday, and I felt I could not do this unless I resigned from my role. It was becoming a distraction, because I want to be vocal on this issue and I want to talk about the fears that my constituents. I understand why there was a three-line whip, that the party wants to be clear that it will not try and block Brexit, but I’ve always been clear that I have to put my constituents first. That was my promise when they voted for me.”
Ms Siddiq said her position did not put her in conflict with other Labour MPs who will be voting in favour of triggering Article 50.
“We have MPs in areas where people voted clearly to Leave. It would be hypocritical if I said to those colleagues: I’m voting against Article 50 because my constituents want me to, but you should ignore your constituents and vote against too. I understand it is very complex. I’ve been unashamedly inward looking into my constituency, and the leadership has to look at it outwardly. What we have to do now is make sure we get as many Labour amendments agreed as possible, but a red line for me was membership of the single market and Theresa May was absolutely clear that she wasn’t going to go with that.”
Around 30 Labour MPs are said to be preparing to vote against triggering Article 50, with Catherine West in neighbouring Hornsey and Wood Green among them.
Ms Siddiq was elected to the House of Commons for the first time in 2015 but will be a Tory election target due to holding majority of just 1,138 votes and boundary changes potentially falling against her.
Asked whether she had been forced to make a big show of her resignation to save her political career in a constituency so heavily supportive of the EU, she said: “People can make their own minds up about why I did this, but the fact is people voted for me to represent them in the Commons on one of the toughest election nights for Labour. It was a night when we didn’t win seats that we were expecting or hoping to win in places like Hendon and Harrow, but they voted for me here because I said I would stand up for their views and they were used to somebody who spoke their mind openly. I think Glenda Jackson would’ve done the same thing if she was still the MP, or at least she has implied she would’ve.”
Ms Siddiq had backed Angela Eagle and then Owen Smith in last year’s Labour leadership contest, but was one of the least critical among the rebel MPs of Mr Corbyn’s performance. She does not follow the line that Mr Corbyn’s campaigning style during the referendum hampered the Remain side.
“I stand by the fact that Brexit should not be blamed on Jeremy Corbyn. It’s the fault of people like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage who spreaded myths about the EU which played on people’s fears,” she said. “I don’t hold Jeremy responsible at all. I think he has weaknesses in other areas but not on that. The fact is he won the leadership fair and square and we [Labour MPs] should come together, but I would have had to resign under these circumstances whoever the leader was if there was a three-line whip.”
She added that she was still on good terms with fellow Camden MP Sir Keir Starmer, the party’s spokesman on Brexit.
She added: “I think Keir is doing an amazing job in difficult circumstances. He’s one of the most talented politicians I’ve come across in my career. So this wasn’t an intention to undermine Jeremy or Keir. I resigned in a professonal way and I’ve turned down radio and TV interviews, because this isn’t about me going out to condemn the leader. I think if anybody understands what being a constituency MP is, then it’s Jeremy Corbyn after all of his years in Islington. I do think the whip system needs to be reformed though. I just don’t think you can go back to your constituents and say: I don’t agree with the policy but I have to vote for it because the whip’s office said I have to. On some highly emotive issues, like Article 50 or Trident or bombing Syria, you cannot be a robot. I’m not a robot. The new intake of 2015 must look at what happened to Ed Balls as an example. For all the things he did in parliament, what good does it do if your constituency then votes against you. I think the new intake [of 2015] are looking at more at what they can do in their constituencies than in parliament.”