Working with Corbyn, a job Tulip couldn’t refuse

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 17.34.40SO, as reported in on the CNJ’s website on Sunday, Tulip Siddiq has accepted work with Jeremy Corbyn. It’s hard to see how she could’ve gone full Copley, joined the resistance and refused to take a role, given a large share of her constituency members expect her to get stuck in now another Labour leadership is over. She had always pledged to unite behind whoever won it, and it’s hard to rail against the ills of the world and complain about the Conservative government as loudly as she wants to and then say: No, I’m not taking a bigger job and more responsibility, because I don’t like the leader the members have picked, twice. The constituency, after all, had supported Corbyn in a nomination meeting.

The rumours are that Tulip at least played hard to get in the private internal negotiations of recent days, turning down offers in other departments before saying yes to the childcare and early years brief in the shadow education team. In the end, though, a tricky summer has worked out as best as it probably could for her. She kept her nose clean, as usually does, amid a bloody scrap for the future of the party.

It was said by someone else (the suspended Labour member Terence Flanagan) that Tulip had “turned sitting on the fence into an art form”, but she is just about keeping the plates spinning on behalf of both sides of Labour’s internal divide. She wasn’t among the MPs who resigned after the Brexit vote, but then she didn’t have much to resign from as a PPS. She was then slow to say too much about who she would support in the leadership contest, picking two losing horses from a field of three – first Angela Eagle, then Owen Smith. She did so, however, without much sharp criticism of Corbyn – not so long ago he was around her house having a cuddle with her daughter Azalea – and without ever really talking up what Smith personally could do better as leader. It was all lukewarm and patchy.

Courted by all, there will be people from both sides who wanted more forceful interventions from Tulip this summer, particularly members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who feel Corbyn’s second victory condemns them to a decade on the opposition benches and some of the Owen Smith supporters back in Camden who felt the importance of removing the Islington North MP was not ever hammered home.

It’s been suggested by gossips, however, more than once, that if she had organised a mini-rally for Smith like Keir Starmer had done at the St Pancras Church it would have been the worst thing she could have done, locally, for her political future. In the end nobody was super happy with her approach, but critically nobody seems furious angrily with her either; she’d had a good war for the want of a better phrase, and not for the first time proved adept at tiptoeing through the Labour Party’s thorns. That’s a skill which others have underestimated before, but one that is still taking her a long way.

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