A British Member of Parliament has said she will delay the birth of her child in order to vote against Theresa May’s controversial Brexit deal.
Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who represents Hampstead & Kilburn, has postponed the date of her caesarean section by two days.
“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,” Siddiq said, per the London Evening Standard.
The 36-year-old lawmaker also told the outlet that she was originally due to give birth to her second child by elective caesarean section on Feb. 4. But after developing gestational diabetes, her doctors recommended she bring the date forward to a delivery this Monday or Tuesday. Siddiq says she spoke to medical staff at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London, and they agreed to allow her to delay.
Conservative vice-chairman Kemi Badenoch has since accused Siddiq of “making a point.” In an interview with the BBC, Ms Badenoch claimed that since Theresa May’s deal is expected to be heavily defeated in the Commons, Siddiq’s vote “isn’t going to make a difference”. In a tweet, the expecting Labour MP railed against the claims.
Thank you all for supportive messages. My decision to delay my baby's birth is not one I take lightly. Let me be clear, I have no faith in the pairing system – in July the Govt stole the vote of a new mother. It's my duty to represent Hampstead & Kilburn, and I will do just that.
— Tulip Siddiq (@TulipSiddiq) January 15, 2019
Siddiq told the Evening Standard she plans to be pushed through Parliament’s voting lobby in a wheelchair by her husband. Her decision is already leading to renewed calls for the introduction of proxy voting, whereby absent legislators can delegate their voting power to a representative.
John Bercow, the Speaker of the Commons, has said he supports proxy voting, and called on Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, along with party whips, to allow Siddiq to vote by proxy.
One Labour MP, Harriet Harman, raised a point of order about proxy voting, and said Siddiq “should not have to choose” between giving birth and voting.
"She should not have to choose between going through the division lobby in a wheelchair, nine months pregnant… or losing her right to vote"
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 14, 2019
According to The Guardian, conservative sources said Labour whips had not asked to pair Siddiq, or arrange for her to be nodded through — a process in which “an MP is counted as having voted because, although they are present on the parliamentary estate, they are unable to pass through the division lobby because they are physically unwell or they have a small child with them,” per Parliament’s official website.
The practice of pairing – when two MPs from opposite parties both agree not to vote for a bill so that the parliamentary arithmetic is not disrupted – has previously acted as an alternative to proxy voting. But the integrity of that system was called into question when Brandon Lewis broke his pairing with the pregnant Jo Swinson in a vote on the Trade Bill 2017-19 in July 2018. Swinson reacted by calling Lewis a cheat on Twitter.
MP’s have been pushing to allow new mothers and fathers the right to nominate a party colleague to vote on their behalf for some time. “Honourable Members who have had a baby or adopted a child should for a period of time be entitled, but not required, to discharge their responsibilities to vote in this House by proxy,” said Harmann in February 2018.
Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House, confirmed in September that she intended “to bring forward a substantive motion as soon as possible.”