Tulip Siddiq On Glenda Jackson, Why Obama Could Only Fall From The Pedestal, And Why Work Never Stops Even At Zumba Class

Tulip Siddiq

The 2015 General Election saw 176 MPs elected to the Commons for the very first time. In a series of exclusive interviews, The Huffington Post UK is speaking to 15 MPs from the 2015 intake of the Conservatives, Labour and SNP. This week, it's Bruce Springsteen loving Tulip Siddiq...

Taking over from one of Parliament's most iconic figures is daunting enough, but throw in the fact your predecessor is a double-Oscar-winning actress you can understand if Tulip Siddiq was slightly nervous about becoming MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.

Ms Siddiq got off to a good start when she took to the stage vacated by Glenda Jackson, increasing the Labour majority in the constituency from a precarious 42 votes to a more comfortable 1,138.

As well as a love of UK politics, Ms Siddiq has campaigned in the United States for Barack Obama, and has a real love of American rock music.

If you're a constituent trying to track her down, just look for the nearest Zumba class...

Here is Tulip Siddiq's 15 from '15:

1) Where were you born and raised?

I was born in St Helier’s hospital and I lived in South London until I was five. I left and for ten years I lived in Asia in different parts. I am a Londoner, but I didn’t live here for ten years. I lived in Bruni, Singapore, India and Bangladesh for ten years and when I was 15 I moved to Hampstead and Kilburn. From 15 to now, I’m 32, I’ve lived in my constituency.

My father was an economics professor and he taught at different universities, that was for two of the countries. My father had a stroke when I was quite young and we went to Singapore for medical treatment and I was home-schooled. When we came here the NHS was just brilliant. That’s why I joined the party because of the NHS. In Singapore and Bruni when he was being treated there we paid an awful lot of money because they don’t have an NHS. Our lives went from being quite normal to suddenly talking about medical bills all the time. When you’re young these things affect you.

When we moved here, all of a sudden my parents weren’t talking about medical bills. I was quite naïve, having only lived in Asia where you didn’t have an NHS anywhere and I didn’t understand why we weren’t paying. My parents said: ‘It’s free, people pay tax and it’s free generally’. It was through seeing my dad making a kind of miraculous recovery through the NHS that I thought ‘I might join the party’. My family are quite lefty anyway.

2) What did you want to be when you were a child?

I wanted to be a teacher for long time, probably an English Literature teacher. I also wanted to be a writer for a long time, either a journalist or a writer. I used to write for my local paper, the Ham and High. When I was younger I just made up stories and wrote them when they came to my head. I’ve written a journal ever since I was about six and I still have all of them. I wrote all throughout my selection process as that’s what you look back and laugh on.

My husband laughs because I will quickly scribble things down. I don’t have time to write long entries anymore but I do write stuff down. It’s a way at looking back and thinking ‘That’s how I felt during that time, but I feel a lot better now. Ok, I have been in this situation before’. Seeing my mood swings are quite fun. It’s very narcissistic and not for publication, I wouldn’t want anyone else to read them at all.

3) When did you first become interested in politics?

The NHS was the reason I joined the party but in terms of politics, if you live in a country like India or Bangladesh like I did when I was younger it’s very hard not to be political, because politics plays an everyday part in your life. In Bangladesh or India whoever is in government affects your everyday life, which it doesn’t here as much I think. The voter turnout is like 93 per cent because everybody comes out and votes. Round the dinner table you talk about politics quite a lot, so I was interested in current affairs and politics ever since I was 10 or something. In less economically developed worlds I don’t think you can not know what’s going on because everyone talks about it. It’s life and death for a lot of people depending on which government comes in.

4) Do you have any political heroes?

I suppose Barbara Castle is an obvious one just because of what she achieved as a woman and a feminist. But I would say, in terms of modern day, I went and campaigned for Obama in 2008. I know people now are not as favourable as they were at the time but what I saw in 2008 in Ohio, in the way he energised people and the way he ran the campaign and the way he inspired people to go out and vote it really made me think.

Communities which were hard to reach came out and voted for him. He is one of my heroes. I went as part of London Young Labour. London Young Labour organised a team of people to go out, we all went in a group, like 80 of us, booked flights, went out to Ohio which was the swing state. Everyone told us no president has ever won without winning Ohio. There was a lot of pressure on us. We were out there for two weeks campaigning, helping on canvassing, getting people out, entering data, reminding people to vote, it was amazing.

We raised him on a pedestal, he was never going to live up to expectation, if you raise someone on a pedestal in that manner they are bound to fall at some stage. Some of my cousins are American and they said ‘it’s cool to be American now because of Obama’.

Barbara Castle was Secretary of State For Employment from 1968 to 1970

5) When did you first stand for election?

I stood in 2006 for Camden Council, I didn’t win it. It was an overwhelming Lib Dem seat, it had been Lib Dem for 25 years. It’s gone to Labour now. It was by-election. I loved being the candidate, I loved the thrill of the campaign, it made me realise I want to stand for office.

In 2010 I stood for council and I did win and was put straight into the Cabinet and Camden Council. I was Communities and Culture [portfolio holder], so I had the libraries which is a big deal in Camden. I was in charge of £22million budget and it was a real learning curve – I was 26 so to be in charge of a £22million budget is quite a big deal.

I stood for selection [for Hampstead and Kilburn] two years ago, when Glenda Jackson announced she was going. Glenda had been my MP since I was a teenager. Very few people can say they’ve had one successful career, and Glenda’s had two. It’s pretty impressive and she’s just a legend. I can’t compete with a woman like that who has two Oscars. For a time she was the best actress in the world for five years. I didn’t even try to compete with her.

When I got selected as a candidate she was the first person to ring me out of the 80 people who rang me. She said to me: "You’ve got to stay true to your values, you’ve got to be the person you want to be. Don’t think about other people, don’t think about following in the foots of other people, think of the person you want to be."

Glenda Jackson in 1971 holding the Oscar which she won for her role as Gudrun in 'Women in Love'

6) What did you do for a living before becoming an MP?

I worked at Amnesty International. I worked at Brunswick, which is financial PR, in their corporate social responsibility section and I had clients like Rolls Royce, who were very good clients actually.

I also worked in Parliament. I worked for Tessa Jowell and Harry Cohen, who was a very rebellious backbencher ten years ago. I worked on the Olympic brief for her in 2010 after we lost the election.

7) What do you do to relax?

I do a lot of pilates and yoga, and Zumba of late. I do those three things regularly. Everyday I do Zumba and pilates. It’s quite embarrassing, I was doing quite a big pilates move, really stretching myself, and this lady looked at me and smiled and tipped her head, and afterwards she said to me ‘I’ve got this housing case’ and I was like ‘I’m really sweaty right now but ok!’.

In terms of relaxing my husband and I do go to the theatre quite a lot. We have the Tricycle theatre in Kilburn which is a great little theatre so we go there a lot. We really enjoy travelling.

8) If you could run any Government department, which would it be?

That’s a tough one. Either Women and Equalities department because I’m on the Select Committee, or Local Government. I think people underestimate quite how much work local governments do and the level of service they have to provide and the level of strain they are under at the moment. I think they underestimate that.

9) What is your favourite film?

The Shawshank Redemption. I love that film. If you asked about my favourite serial, I am watching The Good Wife at the moment and I am obsessed with it. It’s amazing.

The Shawshank Redemption

10) Who is your favourite band/artist?

Bruce Springsteen. I’m obsessed with him and tweet about him all the time. My favourite album is Born to Run probably. I could have a cop out and say a Best Of, but no, Born To Run. I was very much influenced by my older cousins who lived with us for a while when we were growing up. They were American, but Bengali-Americans. They listened to Bruce Springsteen in the house all the time so I’m really stuck in the 80s, so I listen to Springsteen, Aerosmith, and I still listen to Bon Jovi. Of the new bands lately I like Clean Bandit, I think they’re quite good and Los Campesinos.

The iconic cover of the Born To Run album

11) What is the best thing about the House of Commons?

It’s the staff, and not just the person who works for me. The catering guys and the security staff are so nice, they are the most helpful and friendly people. I worked here ten years ago and when I came back on the first day everyone was laughing at me and saying ‘you were here ten years ago’ and it’s because they are a constant thing. The MPs come and go, they just stay. They always have smiles on their faces and I’m sure we’re not easy people to work with.

12) What is the worst thing about the House of Commons?

The ridiculous language you have to use in the Chamber. Also you can’t ever address someone directly, you have to address them through the Chair. You have to turn around and have this long prayer before you start. You have to face the walls because the swords will cut the seats otherwise – it’s an old tradition. My gripe with the whole thing is the language is ridiculous. I’ve got used to it now and I use it but they’re times when I’m tempted to be ‘No! You’re wrong!’ but I really can’t. There are times when you don’t want to be polite to Tories but you have to. Honestly, if your friend made a joke when would you say ‘Hear! Hear!’? You would clap. If someone did something good, you would clap.

13) What is the one thing you would change about UK politics if you could?

I would make it more representative and more diverse. More women, more women from lower socio-economic backgrounds, more women of different ages and make politics easier for women – especially women with children. I’ve always said I believe in all-women shortlists so I’m sticking to that. There are other things you can do along with that. I think having a nursery here, a crèche, is a step in the right direction but I think the hours should be catered.

If you really have child care responsibilities you should have e-voting. To be here at 10 o’clock on a Monday when you have a small child at home must be very hard, especially if you know which way you’re going to vote and your whip knows, why can’t you e-vote? I would modernise it to make it more accessible to women. But I would also try and help people from lower socio-economic backgrounds in the selection process to make it more representative, more diverse and more a reflection of the society it makes up.

Selection campaigns are very expensive. This is the underlying problem in politics. My Tory opponent, I knew him quite well by the end because we had 23 hustings, we were both saying if we didn’t have our family’s support, if I hadn’t had a very generous husband and if he hadn’t had a generous partner there is no way you can finance your own selection campaign. It’s just ridiculous.

14) What one reason would you give someone to visit your constituency?

They should take a walk on Hampstead Heath so they can meet fellow walkers and come up with policies. That’s what Ed Miliband did!

15) What are the best and worst aspects of your personality?

I’m very, very passionate – I think that’s a good thing. I am very loyal, especially to my constituents. I’m very hard working. In terms of the worst aspects, I think I can take on the world which I can’t always do, sometimes I take on too much and I spread myself too thinly and I’m very aware of that. I find it quite hard to say no to things. That’s probably one of the worst aspects of myself.

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