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

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Archbishop Welby has admitted to having doubts about the existence of God  

So the Archbishop of Canterbury has doubts about the existence of God. Good on him for admitting it.

Louise Scodie
A member of the 'Taiji Dolphin Action Group' curls up on a sheet depicting the Japanese flag, during a protest against the killing of dolphins  

Japan must put an end to the brutal slaughter and torture of its dolphins

Mimi Bekhechi
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week