Tulip Siddiq: A heritage in Bangadeshi politics, a future in British?

The grandfather of Tulip Siddiq founded Bangladesh. Ms Siddiq's progress in her run for parliament is worth watching carefully

Share

The Camden New Journal, talking about the selection of a new Labour candidate for Hampstead and Highgate to succeed Glenda Jackson, said “there was, and it sounds disrespectful… no star name or high-profile voice.” I suppose it depends on your definition of “star” and “high-profile”. The selection of councillor Tulip Siddiq as the candidate for this constituency raised an enormous amount of interest in some parts of the world, and certainly among a substantial community in the UK.

Although she, wisely, did not stress it in her campaign, she comes from an extraordinarily distinguished political dynasty in Asia. Her grandfather, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was the founder of Bangladesh, a brave though flawed idealist, who is to this day revered in the region. He, and most of his family, were massacred in 1975, leaving only two daughters. One of those daughters, Sheikh Hasina, is now the leader of the country, and has done her best to sustain a secular culture against growing Islamist pressure. Though Ms Siddiq, who is Ms Hasina’s neice, was born here, in London, because of the tumultuous history of Bangladesh, her links to and prestige in the country her grandfather founded remain very strong.

Bangladesh has immense problems, and we tend to hear about it as a problem area, but it has made some unheralded steps forward, too. As the economist Amartya Sen was pointing out this week, it has overtaken India, with twice its GDP per head, in many issues of daily life. Strikingly, for a predominantly Islamic country, it does better on gender-based equality issues than India. Sen went on to make the key point that whereas 50 per cent of Indians have no access to toilets, this is the case for only 9-10 per cent of Bangladeshis in a much poorer country.

This is a culture that reveres political dynasties, and votes for widows, daughters, grandchildren, who are brought up in an intense atmosphere of public service. There are only four grandchildren of Mujibur,  still generally known as Bangabandhu, or the Friend of Bengal. The pressure on those grandchildren to act in their ancestral national arena must be very strong.

I met another of the grandchildren, Ms Siddiq’s charming brother, known universally as Bobby, in Dhaka last year, and had an unexpected insight into the world of such people. The manners of Dhaka among the elite are often open and relaxed compared to India; still, there was no mistaking the atmosphere of respect and repressed excitement as the grandson of Bangabandhu entered the room. It’s interesting that Ms Siddiq, with a natural bent towards politics, has chosen to exercise it not in the nation of her grandfather and aunt, but here in the UK.

British politics can gain immensely from someone of this background, whose name opens doors, and whose connections to a secular culture within the Islamic world could build bridges where few possibilities sometimes seem to exist. To take a single example: it is very easy to imagine someone like this playing a very important role in establishing lasting and committed links between western businesses and Bangladeshi manufacturers in the wake of the tragic factory collapses.

If Ms Siddiq proves to be a capable and upright politician, she could bring considerable benefits to the relatively enclosed world of Westminster and the Labour party. The gains, I think, might well prove to be all on that side, and we should observe Ms Siddiq’s capacities and career with close interest.

Thank you, and you, and you...

I’m a connoisseur on that growing, macabre phenomenon, the Acknowledgements Page in American fiction, and this week turned up a doozy. Simon Rich, at the end of a slight collection of New Yorker-type comic sketches, thanked all of 42 people. The book is quite amusing, but nothing is as funny as the acknowledgements. When did this start as an adjunct to fiction? It used to be limited to sentimental novels. The curious thing is that it destroys the comic potential of the pages that precede it. Try as one might, one just can’t imagine James Thurber writing a three-page Acknowledgements.

Keeping things civil

My husband was trying to get my attention. “Phil. Phil. Are we going to upgrade?” he was asking. “What? When? On British Airways next week?” “No – to marriage. Now the Queen’s agreed, we can upgrade from civil partnership. And can we have a party?” “Ah. Oh. OK then,” I said. Well, it would be nice to have another wedding, and at least it would allow one to give a sharper reply to the surprising number of strangers who correct you when you say “my husband” rather than “my civil partner.” Still, there is a part of me that is tempted to stick to the Civil Partnership option. In 20 years’ time, it will have a wonderfully period flavour, like the last Jacobite in Oxford, or the 41 people who were, in 2008, still obstinately backing the SDP against that breakaway Liberal Democrat thing. “Have you met my Civil Partner?” How lovely and odd that will sound in 2033.

Froth over the Führer

A Henry Mulyana has been running a Nazi-themed restaurant in Bandung, West Java, until attention was drawn to this outrage. He has been required to close it down, saying plaintively that he didn’t want his staff to lose their jobs. Well, I wouldn’t drink a cup of coffee under a portrait of Hitler, but it’s surprising how other mass-murderers get a green card in this respect. I was once startled in a Soho restaurant to see, among a wall of photographs of film stars, singers and boxers, the face of Mussolini. Thanks to Andy Warhol, the features of Chairman Mao are considered highly suitable to decorate parasols, handbags and other fashionable kitsch. I really don’t see the difference between using Hitler’s portrait on a café wall and buying T-shirts and baseball caps with Chairman Mao’s face amusingly printed on them. 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping child abuse taking place right now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower