Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Smooth Operators

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Smooth Operators

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PALMER

It's a late night in Annabel's and a shady couple on the fringes of cafe society are introducing David Blunkett to a beautiful blonde.

So who are the Siddiqis? Paul Palmer on the DNA of a very social scandal

An old family friend of Tariq and Lucy Siddiqi tells an apposite story about the London couple who have found themselves as walkon parts in an ongoing political soap opera. The friend had not heard from the Siddiqis for nearly 20 years. But a short while ago, having renewed contact, she was astonished to receive an email picture from them. It featured the Siddiqis' 15-year-old daughter, Tijan, the eldest of their three children.

The amateurish photograph captured Tijan vaguely in the company of Prince Harry at a polo event. The message was clear. 'You couldn't help but laugh,' the friend says. 'It was just typical.

I hadn't heard from Lucy for years and here she was sending me a picture of Prince Harry with her daughter somewhere in the background. It was as if she were saying: "Here, just to show you how important me and my family are!'' ' The Siddiqis are certainly fond of high-profile company.

Earlier this year, the couple - who, as we shall see, have both had something of a penchant for nightclubs - famously found themselves at the enduringMayfair hangout, Annabel's.

Famously, because one of the group on that evening was their new friend, David A few months before, the libidinous former Home Secretary had been forced to resign following the 'visa row' over the nanny of his married former lover, Spectator publisher Kimberly Quinn, with whom he had fathered a child.

But when he joined the Siddiqis at Annabel's in June this year, he had been returned to the Cabinet table as Minister for Work and Pensions after Labour's May election victory.

Blunkett and the Siddiqis were close: for two weeks before the election, Blunkett had been a non-executive director of the couple's company, DNA Bioscience, which aggressively markets DNA kits and of which Lucy remains a director.

Making up the foursome on that night in June was a friend of the Siddiqis: Sally Anderson, a 29-year-old blonde Berkshire estate agent. The Siddiqis had invited Miss Anderson along on a 'blind date': literally, in this instance, as Blunkett and his young companion dined and, according to Miss Anderson's story at least, miraculously bonded.

What ensued was tabloid nirvana: a Cabinet minister, moreover one who had already been involved in a sensational paternity battle with his former married mistress, foolishly smitten once more; a dishy blonde - engaged at the time to a long-term boyfriend - seemingly out to make the most of a relationship with an older man who should have known better; and, more seriously, accusations of unseemly business links, dodgy directorships, bad judgements and failed investments as the lurid details of Blunkett's new friends quickly emerged.

For Tariq Siddiqi, his involvement with Blunkett has opened the floodgates on his own intriguing past. Former associates of Siddiqi are said to be staggered that Blunkett allowed himself to become involved with a man who, to put it mildly, has something of a chequered past. He has always been a controversial figure on the fringes of London's charity party circuit. But it is his involvement with Blunkett and the role played by the Siddiqis' company, DNA Bioscience, that has left a raft of unanswered questions, of which more later.

But to properly understand how a couple like the Siddiqis should find themselves at the heart of the current furore, we need to turn not so much to the controversial figure of Tariq but to the real power within the relationship: the silent and elusive presence of Lucy Siddiqi. For it is in Lucy that we begin to see the limitless ambition which drives this curious couple.

It is she, after all, who first convinced Blunkett to join them as business directors. …

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