Brexit: Labour MP Tulip Siddiq to delay birth of child to vote against Theresa May's deal 'because Tories could break pairing arrangement'

'This is a high-risk pregnancy and I am doing this against doctor’s advice'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 15 January 2019 09:00
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Labour MP Harriet Harman: Tulip Siddiq should be allowed to cast her vote on Brexit deal by proxy

A Labour MPs will delay the birth of her child to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, because she does not trust the government to honour any “pairing” arrangement.

Tulip Siddiq has defied medical advice to postpone her caesarean section by two days and intends to be pushed through the voting lobby in a wheelchair by her husband on Tuesday evening.

Usually, heavily pregnant MPs, those with babies and those who are sick are “paired” with an opposition MP who also cannot vote so the overall result is not affected.

But the tradition broke down after the Tory chief whip, Julian Smith, was accused of secretly telling Conservative MPs to ignore “pairing” arrangements before a knife-edge Brexit vote last summer.

Ms Siddiq warned she could no longer trust any promise of a pair, saying: “If the pairing system is not honoured, there’s nothing I can do, and it’s going to be a very close vote.

“I’ve had no pressure at all from the whips to come and vote but this is the biggest vote of my lifetime.”

Ms Siddiq had a difficult first pregnancy with her daughter Azalea, now two, and had originally been due to give birth by elective caesarean section on 4 February.

However, after developing gestational diabetes, doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in North London advised she deliver the baby at 37 weeks, either today or tomorrow.

She asked medical staff if she could shift the date back to Thursday, which they agreed to.

The 36-year-old added: “If my son enters the world even one day later than the doctors advised, but it’s a world with a better chance of a strong relationship between Britain and Europe, then that’s worth fighting for.”

But she added: “The Royal Free has been very clear on their legal and health duties. This is a high-risk pregnancy and I am doing this against doctor’s advice.

“I’m choosing in a sense between career and my family life and I feel it’s totally unfair and, if we want more women in politics and we want people to come from different backgrounds, we need change and to introduce proxy voting.”

Last July, the Conservative party did not deny that Mr Smith told a total of three Tory MPs to vote to avoid a damaging defeat on leaving the EU customs union, despite being paired.

Brandon Lewis, the party chairman, did break his pair – accidentally he insisted – but the other two sought further advice and ignored the instruction, it was reported.

Ms Siddiq told the London Evening Standard: “I’ve sat down with my husband Chris and he said to me this is my choice but that he would support me.

“I am thinking about my child’s future when I made this decision – his future in the world. If it comes to an absolute emergency, I will of course prioritise the baby’s health.”

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