|Shadow Attorney General|
7 October 2011 – 20 November 2014
|Preceded by||The Baroness Scotland|
|Member of Parliament
for Islington South and Finsbury
5 May 2005
|Preceded by||Chris Smith|
27 July 1960 |
|Spouse(s)||Sir Christopher Nugee QC|
|Relations||Professor Cedric Thornberry|
|Children||2 sons, 1 daughter|
|Alma mater||University of Kent|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Website||Emily Thornberry's Website|
Thornberry was born in north Surrey to Cedric Thornberry, a Visiting Professor of War Studies at King's College London, and his wife Sallie Thornberry, a teacher. Her parents divorced when Thornberry was aged seven and she and her two brothers lived with her mother who later became a Labour Councillor and Mayor. Her father went on to become United Nations Assistant Secretary General and to work for NATO. She was educated at the University of Kent at Canterbury where she studied law. She went on to practise as a barrister specialising in human rights law from 1985 to 2005 under Michael Mansfield at Tooks Chambers.
Following the retirement of Chris Smith, Thornberry was selected as the Labour candidate for Islington South and Finsbury at the 2005 general election through an all women shortlist of prospective candidates. She was elected with a majority of 484 in the election. Nick Smith (who subsequently was elected to Parliament), served as her election agent.
Thornberry made her maiden speech in the House of Commons on 24 May 2005. In Parliament, she has been a member of the Environmental Audit Committee and was on the Communities & Local Government Select Committee in the 2005-10 Parliament. She is currently vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Choice and Sexual Health Group.
Thornberry's main interests since becoming an MP have been in health, housing, the environment, and equality. She has spoken on the need for more affordable housing, particularly in Islington. In 2006, Thornberry introduced the Housing Association Bill - a Private member's bill which sought to improve the control of housing association residents over their landlords. Many of the ideas from this Bill were taken up by the Cave Review. On the environment, Thornberry has worked with Friends of the Earth and World Wide Fund for Nature on campaigns for a Climate Change Bill and a Marine Bill. In 2006, Thornberry won the ePolitix Award for Environment Champion of the Year after being nominated by WWF.
In 2008, she helped to organise the votes of MPs in the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill. In the Commons, she spoke to defend the right of lesbian mothers to access IVF treatment, and was criticised by other MPs including Conservative MP Sir Patrick Cormack and DUP member Iris Robinson. Following her intervention, she was nominated for Stonewall Politician of the Year 2008.
In March 2008, Thornberry claimed that almost every child in Islington had been mugged at some stage. This was denied by the Metropolitan Police as 'speculation', pointing out that out of a borough population of 180,000, only 750 people under 18 had reported being the victims of mugging in 2007. However, the comments were seen as a hindrance to Labour London mayor Ken Livingstone's re-election campaign.
Though normally voting with the Whip, Thornberry voted against the Labour Government on national security matters, regarding the detention of terror suspects without charge for 90 days in the Terrorism Act 2006, on the same matter for 42 days in the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008, and against the renewal of Trident. Thornberry emerged "unscathed" and "squeaky clean" from the expenses scandal, She was praised by David Cameron for the hard line she took on "false claims" in her constituency, and he commented that she had "support … on both sides of the house" for her actions. In 2009 Thornberry was made a ministerial aide in the Department of Energy & Climate Change and attended the Copenhagen Summit in December that year with Joan Ruddock and Ed Miliband.
In May 2010, Thornberry was re-elected as MP for Islington South and Finsbury with an increased majority, in a seat identified as the Liberal Democrats' top target in England for the 2010 election.
After the 2010 general election, Thornberry was promoted to Shadow Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, under Ed Miliband. In the role she shadowed Charles Hendry, and addressed issues such as energy security, green jobs, and fuel poverty. Thornberry missed out on a place in Labour's Shadow Cabinet by one vote, but she was promoted to the role of Shadow Care Minister, under Shadow Health Secretary John Healey.
In this role Thornberry challenged the government’s lack of action over failing care home operator Southern Cross, calling for action and that the government put in place a plan B should the operator fail. She criticised the government over the Winterborne View care home abuse scandal, calling for an investigation into the affair. In April 2011, Thornberry surveyed all the Local Government Directors of Adult Social Care and highlighted the pressures on care for the elderly by the coalition government’s cuts to Local Authority funds.
Thornberry was appointed Shadow Attorney General in October 2011, and attends Shadow Cabinet meetings. In this role she has won praise for being "very sensible and pertinent", and has taken an active role in holding the government to account. She has highlighted the lack of prosecutions over corporate manslaughter, the need for action against white-collar crime, links between Liam Fox and lobbyists, and posed "serious questions" arising from the CPS’s prosecution of Mark Kennedy.
Thornberry has called for action from Dominic Grieve over Applied Language Solutions' failure to provide interpreters for court proceedings, and called on the Attorney General to ensure that allegations of bribery involving Bernie Ecclestone were properly investigated.
In 2011 Thornberry challenged David Cameron over his false claims about wages at Islington Council, campaigning against government measures which have exacerbated child poverty in Islington, and answering over 1,000 enquiries a month from constituents.
Thornberry was nominated for the Stonewall Politician of the Year Award in 2008 for her work to support equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. She was given a score of 86% in favour of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality by Stonewall. On 5 February 2013 she voted in favour in the House of Commons Second Reading vote on marriage equality in Britain.
Thornberry resigned her shadow cabinet position on 20 November 2014, shortly after polls closed in the Rochester and Strood by-election. Earlier in the day, she had received criticism after tweeting a photograph of a house in the constituency draped with several flags of St. George and a white van parked on the driveway under the caption 'Image from Rochester', provoking accusations of snobbery. She was widely criticised by fellow Labour Party MPs, including leader Ed Miliband who claimed the tweet conveyed a "sense of disrespect", Chris Bryant who said that it broke the "first rule of politics" and Simon Danczuk who suggested that the party had been "hijacked by the north London liberal elite".
Social housing campaign
During the course of a campaign run by Thornberry on the subject of social housing, the Islington Tribune, a local newspaper, discovered that her husband had bought ex-social housing stock for over half a million pounds and receives rental income from the property. It also emerged that the new residents are Labour Party activists. Some related claims in the article regarding Emily Thornberry's involvement in the matter were later retracted by the paper.
Electoral Commission complaint
In 2006 67% of people in Islington had registered for the forthcoming council elections. In reference to the problem, Thornberry re-issued a press release from the Electoral Commission, discussing the low figure, adding "It’s extremely worrying that only 67% have registered for Islington's May council elections as voting is the only way to have your voice heard."
Steve Hitchens, then-leader of Islington Council, complained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Philip Mawer, that Ms Thornberry had "altered an electronic copy of an Electoral Commission news release by inserting a quotation from herself". During the investigation, the Commissioner accepted that Thornberry's primary motive was to act in the public interest by supporting the Electoral Commission's campaign to improve response rates, and consequently levels of voter registration. He found her actions to have been "unwise and unfortunate" but that "there was no intention on her part to deceive or manipulate the public, nor had that been the effect of her actions". The Committee on Standards and Privileges agreed with his findings and found that the evidence did not support Hitchen's claims.
Thornberry has lived in Islington since the early 1990s. In July 1991 she married fellow-barrister Christopher Nugee, of Wilberforce Chambers, in Tower Hamlets, and they have two sons (born December 1991 and July 1999) and a daughter (born November 1993). Nugee later became a Queen's Counsel, then a High Court judge, and was knighted. Since 1993 they have lived on Richmond Crescent, Barnsbury, where Tony Blair also lived until the 1997 general election, moving in on the same day as the Blairs. She also part-owns properties in Guildford and South London.
In April 2005 it emerged that Thornberry had sent her son to the selective Dame Alice Owen's School fourteen miles away from her home and outside her constituency. The school was formerly based in Islington and still reserves ten percent of its places for Islington pupils. The Labour Party opposes selection and Thornberry was widely criticised over the issue as a result. Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools stated "I celebrate her good sense as a parent and deplore her hypocrisy as a politician. When will those who espouse the virtues of comprehensive education apply the logic of their political message to their children?"
The controversy had strong echoes of the cases of Harriet Harman, Tony Blair and Diane Abbott. Thornberry's daughter now also attends the school. She defended her position by stating she felt the school should not have moved from its original location. The school moved location in 1973.
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- "Housing Association (Rights and Representation of Residents) Bill". Publications.parliament.uk. 28 February 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Cave Review
- [dead link]
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- Women's Parliamentary Radio Online audio interview discussing her life as a female MP
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Islington South and Finsbury
|Shadow Attorney General