Tulip Siddiq apologises for ‘off-hand’ comments to pregnant Channel 4 News producer
MP asks police to investigate 'physical intimidation' at scene of surprise interview
29 November, 2017 — By Richard Osley
LABOUR’S Tulip Siddiq today (Wednesday) apologised to a pregnant TV producer for ‘off-hand comments’ after a clash with Channel 4 News journalists chasing her for comment on a human rights case.
The Hampstead and Kilburn MP was ‘doorstepped’ by Channel 4 News at the demonstration for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in West Hampstead on Saturday and asked by chief correspondent Alex Thomson whether she would be similarly vocal in the case of Ahmad bin Quasem, a British trained lawyer whose whereabouts are unknown after being taken away by authorities in Bangladesh. Ms Siddiq’s aunt is the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina.
As the two sides separated, video footage – aired by the broadcaster last night – showed her telling producer Daisy Ayliffe, who is pregnant: “Thanks Daisy for coming. Hope you have a great birth because child labour is hard.” The programme said this was a threatening comment and complained to the Labour Party. In another section of the film, Ms Siddiq is heard cautioning Mr Thomson to be careful about his line of questioning, to which he later tweeted was his first warning he had received from an MP during 30 years on the job.
It is understood Channel 4 News had requested a studio interview with Ms Siddiq on Mr bin Quasem’s case before appearing at the event in West End Green on Saturday.
Channel 4 News’ report
Ms Siddiq, re-elected with a 15,000 majority in June, later reported what she said was ‘physical intimidation’ by journalists at the scene to police, who said today they were investigating a case of ‘common assault’ after interviewing a woman in her 30s – Ms Siddiq.
Her name was trending across social media after Mr Thomson’s film was broadcast.
The MP told the New Journal today (Wednesday) she has no influence over her famous relation’s decisions in government and that as Mr bin Quasem was neither her constituent, nor British, she would not be getting involved. She added that she had taken cases up of Bangladeshis living her constituency in the past, including those with problems with Sheikh Hasina’s government, but that she had “followed protocol” and contacted Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson about them.
She said: “My aunt is 70, she has been a politician for a very long time and she makes her own mind up about what she wants to do. I’ve been very clear that I was elected to represent people from Hampstead and Kilburn, and there are very few Bangladeshis in this constituency.”
Asked why she often openly criticised governments in countries other than Bangladesh, such as Donald Trump in the United States or Iran, she said they were “countries of interest” to her as she had campaigned for Barack Obama before becoming an MP and had been at the forefront of the campaign to free Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe from a jail in Tehran.
“It’s wrong to say that I can just make one phone call and change politics in Bangladesh,” she said. I have consistently said I don’t want to be involved when people in Bangladesh ask me if I will. I don’t think it would be appropriate to interfere in another country’s politics like this.”
She added that past comments in which she had said she was willing to help Bangladeshis whether they were in London or their home country had been “taken out of context” and that she had not been a family spokeswoman for Sheikh Hasina for ten years.
In a statement released at midday, she said sorry to Ms Ayliffe, adding: “I want to apologise unreservedly for my comments to Channel 4’s producer, which were an off-hand and ill-judged attempt to deal with an intimidating situation. I would never want to upset her and I hope she accepts my apology.”
She added: “With regard to the Channel 4 news report itself, and as I made clear prior to the event on Saturday, I was born in London and serve as a British Member of Parliament. The focus of my work is spent on delivering for the residents of Hampstead and Kilburn who elected me to represent them. The fact that some members of my family are involved in politics in Bangladesh has long been a matter of public record which I have not hidden from. That said, I have no capability nor desire to influence politics in Bangladesh.”
On her decision to go the police, the statement said: “I have filed a police complaint about the physical intimidation I faced at the rally on Saturday. The investigations are ongoing and I can’t comment further at this stage.”
Channel 4 News said it would release the full footage of the exchange between Ms Siddiq and its producers and journalists later today. It shows the MP’s aides accusing Mr Thomson of being “desperate” and a hand being placed over a camera lens.
Of Ms Siddiq’s apology, the programme’s editor Ben De Pear said this afternoon (Wednesday): “Whilst welcome this comes four days after the incident and should have been made to Daisy direct as requested rather than Twitter. However there are still urgent questions surrounding the disappearance of Bangladeshi lawyer Ahmed bin Quasem and Tulip’s influence with her aunt, the PM.”