Chuka Umunna

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Chuka Umunna
Chuka at Lambeth College-2.JPG
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Assumed office
7 October 2011
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by John Denham
Member of Parliament
for Streatham
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Keith Hill
Majority 3,259 (7.0%)
Personal details
Born (1978-10-17) 17 October 1978 (age 36)
London, United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Alma mater University of Manchester
Nottingham Trent University
Religion Christianity
Website Official website

Chuka Harrison Umunna (born 17 October 1978) is a British Labour Party politician who has served Streatham as Member of Parliament (MP) since 2010.[1]

Umunna is the current Shadow Business Secretary since 2011.[2]

Early life[edit]

Chuka Umunna's father Bennett, of the Nigerian Igbo ethnic group, died in a road accident in Nigeria in 1992.[3] His mother, Patricia, is a solicitor and daughter of Sir Helenus Milmo QC, the Anglo-Irish High Court judge.[4]


Umunna was educated at Hitherfield Primary School in Streatham, South London, and the Christ Church Primary School in Brixton Hill. He says his parents felt that the local state school had "given up on him" and so moved him to the boys' independent senior school St Dunstan's College,[5] in Catford in southeast London, where he played the cello,[6][7] and became Deputy Head Boy.[8] During this period he was also a chorister at Southwark Cathedral.[9]

He says that he "wouldn't rule out" sending his own (future) children to a private school if they were doing badly at a State school.[8] He was awarded an upper second class LLB in English and French Law from the University of Manchester; after graduating he studied for one term at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, before studying for an MA at Nottingham Law School. He has said that his politics and moral values come from Christianity, but that he is "not majorly religious".[10][11]

Legal career[edit]

After university, in 2002, he began work as a solicitor for the City of London firm, Herbert Smith. In 2006 he joined Rochman Landau, specialising in Employment Law. From 2006 onwards, Umunna began to write and provide commentary on the Labour Party, as well as broader social and economic issues, usually in his capacity as a member of the Management Committee of the Labour-aligned Compass pressure group. He also wrote articles for the Financial Times, Tribune, The Voice, The Guardian and the New Statesman, and began to appear on various radio and television programmes as a commentator.[12][13] He founded and edited the online political magazine, The Multicultural Politic.[14] In 2007, he campaigned for John Cruddas' unsuccessful bid to become Labour Deputy Leader.

Political career[edit]

Member of Parliament[edit]

In March 2008, Umunna was adopted as the Labour Party's prospective parliamentary candidate for Streatham.[15] At the 2010 general election, he was elected Member of Parliament for Streatham with a 3,259 majority;[16] he gave his maiden speech on 2 June 2010.[17] He took a particular interest in economic policy and reform of the City.

Umunna has described himself as being "One Nation Labour" and has written articles promoting the "Blue Labour" trend.[18][19]

Umunna has argued that the coalition government should revise its programme of fiscal consolidation, take a tougher stance with the British banking industry and take action to transform the credit ratings agency market.[20][21][22] Umunna was one of 73 Labour MPs to nominate Ed Miliband in the 2010 Labour leadership election to find a successor to Gordon Brown.[23]

In early April 2013, Umunna's law firm was linked to favourable updates made on his Wikipedia page in 2007, which included a reference to him being tipped as the "British Barack Obama".[24][25] In the same month, Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris criticised Umunna for comments he had made in his mid 20s about the West End of London. Heaton-Harris said the 2006 comments, describing people visiting nightclubs in the West End as "trash" and "c-list wannabes", showed a "lack of respect for the public"; Umunna stated that the comments were meant to have been "light-hearted in tone and context" but appreciated that "the choice of words used were not appropriate" and apologised for any offence.[26] The Mirror ran a piece indicating that Umunna "had been targeted" and that the Conservative Party was implicated after a "leaked email" from their HQ showed that "businessmen had been lobbied" to criticise Umunna over his West End comments.[27]

Umunna was accused of hypocrisy for accepting a £20,000 gift from a gambling executive despite campaigning against the spread of betting shops in his constituency and promising new powers to limit them.[28]

Treasury Select Committee[edit]

In June 2010, he was elected as a member of the Treasury Select Committee.[29] In January 2011, Umunna questioned the Chief Executive of Barclays, Bob Diamond, in relation to alleged tax avoidance activities by the bank during which he disclosed that the bank used over 300 subsidiary companies in offshore jurisdictions.[30] In response to a question from Umunna, Diamond admitted in February 2011 that Barclays had paid £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009, despite making £11.6bn in profit.[31] He held this position until his appointment to Shadow Minister for Small Business and Enterprise.

PPS and Shadow Minister for Small Business and Enterprise[edit]

In October 2010, following Miliband's election as party leader, Umunna was appointed to serve as his Parliamentary Private Secretary and, in May 2011, he was appointed to the position of Shadow Minister for Small Business and Enterprise until his promotion to the Shadow Cabinet.[32]

Shadow Cabinet[edit]

Umunna was promoted as Shadow Business Secretary on 7 October 2011, replacing John Denham, who announced his retirement from front-bench politics.[33] Following his appointment, Umunna re-affirmed Labour's commitment to introducing a graduate tax in place of university tuition fees if it wins the election due in May 2015. In January 2012, Umunna joined Ed Miliband and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves in calling on PM David Cameron to block a £1.6m bonus for Stephen Hester, the chief executive officer of the publicly-owned Royal Bank of Scotland Group.[34] During 2013, Umunna led claims that the Government's valuation of the Royal Mail during its privatisation had effectively "shortchanged" the taxpayer, a view supported by the significant rise in the share price following the sale and the subsequent summoning of bankers to a parliamentary investigation.[35][36]

In early May 2014, Umunna raised concerns in Parliament[37] and public over the proposed takeover of AstraZeneca, by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, on the grounds of ensuring British jobs and interests.[38] Despite assurances from Pfizer, Umunna went on to publicly denounce the proposed takeover proclaiming that Pfizer's assurances were "not worth the paper they were written on".[39] The takeover bid eventually fell through in late May 2014 after the Astra Zeneca board rejected Pfizer's final offer.[40]

In May 2014, Umunna criticised fellow Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham's report into possible methods of restricting the sale and advertising of alcohol, unhealthy foods, and tobacco. He was quoted as having said that such courses of action as outlined in the report would be seen to be "anti-business and interventionist".[41]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Labour appoints fresh face to replace John Denham". Times Higher Education. 7 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Bloss, Andrew (3 August 2012). "Friends fear Crystal Palace director was assassinated". London: The Croydon Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Walters, Simon (30 September 2012). "The British Obama? No, Labour high-flyer Chuka's the black Blair". Daily Mail (London). 
  5. ^ "Who can lead Labour? Chuka Umunna can". London Evening Standard. (London). 14 January 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "Chuka Umunna: Profile". The Financial Times (FT Magazine) (London). 19 July 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "The British Obama? No, Labour high-flyer Chuka's the black Blair". Daily Mail (London). 30 September 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Chuka Umunna Coy About Leadership Ambitions". Sky News. 1 October 2012. 
  10. ^ "'Chuka Umunna: "I'm fed up with being in the shadows"'". 30 September 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  11. ^ Walker, Tim (12 November 2011). "'Don't compare me to Obama' Is Chuka Umunna Britain's first black PM?". 12 November 2011 (London: The Independent). Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Umunna, Chuka (30 August 2007). "The duty to inspire". 
  13. ^ Umunna, Chuka (11 September 2006). "Ask the expert: Diversity in the City". Financial Times. 
  14. ^ Umunna, Chuka (15 April 2007). "TMP is born". The Multicultural Politic. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Chuka wins race to become Labour's Streatham MP candidate". Streatham Guardian. 17 March 2008. 
  16. ^ "Streatham". The Guardian. 
  17. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (2 June 2010). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 02 Jun 2010 (pt 0015)". Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  18. ^ "Chuka Umunna MP " One Nation Labour". Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  19. ^ "Chuka Umunna: My vision for One Nation Labour". Left Foot Forward. 12 May 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  20. ^ About Chuka Umunna and Duncan Weldon (25 October 2010). "The man's not for turning". New Statesman. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  21. ^ "Credit Rating Agencies: 16 Nov 2010: House of Commons debates". TheyWorkForYou. 7 December 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  22. ^ "New Clause 3 – Bank taxation: 8 Nov 2010: House of Commons debates". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  23. ^ "Ed Miliband: Nominations". Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  24. ^ Kember, Billy (12 April 2013). "Flattering 'British Obama' edit on Wikipedia raises questions for MP Chuka Umunna". The Times (London). Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  25. ^ Hope, Christopher (7 April 2013). "Labour star Chuka Umunna admits his aides probably set up and edited his own Wikipedia page". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  26. ^ "Labour MP Chuka Umunna apologises for comments on elite social network saying London's nightclubs are 'full of trash'". The Independent. 5 April 2013. 
  27. ^ Lyons, James (13 April 2013). "Conservatives criticised for "sleazy politics" after lobbying nightclub owners to attack Labour MP Chuka Umunna". The Mirror. London. 
  28. ^ Morris, Nigel (6 August 2013). "Rising star of Labour and betting shop critic Chuka Umunna faces embarrassment after accepting £20,000 gift from gambling executive". London: Independent. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  29. ^ "Treasury Committee – membership – UK Parliament". 9 June 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  30. ^ O'Hare, Sean (17 January 2011). "Labour MP urges Barclay's chief to reduce offshore subsidaries [sic]". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  31. ^ Treannor, Jill (18 February 2011). "Barclays bank forced to admit it paid just £113m in corporation tax in 2009". The Guardian (London). 
  32. ^ "The London Hustings". London Evening Standard. April 2015. 
  33. ^ "Ed Miliband promotes fresh faces to Labour top team". BBC News. 7 October 2011. 
  34. ^ Syal, Rajeev (23 January 2012). "Ed Miliband calls for Stephen Hester to be denied a reported £1.6m RBS bonus". The Guardian (London). 
  35. ^ "Umunna: Taxpayer 'shortchanged' by Royal Mail sale – ITV News". 7 October 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  36. ^ "MPs summon bankers to explain their valuations of Royal Mail". The Guardian (London). 8 November 2012. 
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ Prynne, Miranda (4 May 2014). "Labour plans for a crackdown on drinking, smoking and unhealthy food". The Daily Telegraph (London). 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Keith Hill
Member of Parliament
for Streatham

Political offices
Preceded by
John Denham
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills