THE old wisdom goes that newspaper journalism amounts to little more than a rough, first draft of history. We write without the benefit of hindsight, and inevitably with some secrets beyond reach until another day. Still, the story of how Tulip Siddiq worked herself into the prime position to succeed Glenda Jackson as MP in Hampstead and Kilburn has been told many times without dispute, running more or less like this: she positioned herself as an ally to all, dug campaign trenches before her competitors even got started, benefited from Fiona Millar’s decision not to go for it and emerged as the apparent lefty candidate, securing support from unions while rivals were being endorsed by figures indiscriminately cast as Blairites. She was teased on these pages that she should be known henceforth as ‘Red Tulip’ as she courted what would now, I guess, be counted as the Corbynite wing of the membership.
So, a new, revisionist draft of events from the Evening Standard comes as a surprise among those of us who thought we understood how Tulip came to defeat Sally Gimson, the council’s former social services chief, and Sophie Linden, now Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for policing. In a giddy week for the Standard, in which it named Prince Charles – who else? – as its Londoner of the Decade, both Camden MPs Keir Starmer, still talked about a possible future leader of the Labour Party, and Tulip were named in its Progress 1,000 compendium of the most influential people in the capital. Of Tulip, it explained: ‘Having seen off the unions to stand for Labour in Hampstead and Kilburn…’
A view of Tulip somehow needing to take on the unions in a lefty, often contrarian constituency is a totally new account of the intriguing selection contest of 2013. Ask Sally and Sophie whether they felt Tulip was promoted as someone busying herself seeing off the unions and they may afford themselves a giggle. The MP-to-be was actually seeking as many of their nominations as possible, and by and large succeeding. If Tulip wasn’t the union choice here, who was?
Maybe, after a series of dazzling double page spread interviews with Tulip in the last year and a half, the Standard knows something the rest of us don’t. To be fair, Tulip herself quickly retweeted the paper’s glowing citation without correcting the line about busting the unions. We’ll have to wait until her memoirs to get a definitive draft.