Emily Thornberry

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Emily Thornberry
Shadow Attorney General
Assumed office
7 October 2011
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by The Baroness Scotland
Member of Parliament
for Islington South and Finsbury
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded by Chris Smith
Majority 3,569 (8.2%)
Personal details
Born (1960-07-27) 27 July 1960 (age 54)
Surrey, England
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Christopher Nugee QC
Relations Professor Cedric Thornberry
Children 2 sons, 1 daughter
Residence Islington
Alma mater University of Kent
Occupation Politician
Profession Barrister
Religion Church of England
Website Emily Thornberry's Website

Emily Anne Thornberry (born 27 July 1960) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington South and Finsbury since 2005. She is currently the Shadow Attorney General.

Before Parliament[edit]

Thornberry was born in north Surrey to Cedric Thornberry, a Visiting Professor of War Studies at King's College London, and his wife Sally Thornberry, a teacher.[1] 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.[2] Her father went on to become United Nations Assistant Secretary General and work for NATO.[3] 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.

Thornberry joined the Transport and General Workers Union in 1985.[4] In the late 1980s she became friends with Waheed (now Lord) Alli, and persuaded him to join the Labour Party.

Parliamentary career[edit]

In the 2001 general election she stood for Parliament in Canterbury and was defeated by the Conservative incumbent, Julian Brazier[5] by a margin of over 2,000 votes.

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.[6] She was elected with a majority of 484 in the election.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] Many of the ideas from this Bill were taken up by the Cave Review.[10] 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.[11]

In 2008, she helped to organise the votes of progressive MPs in the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill. In the Commons, she spoke to defend the right of lesbian mothers to access IVF treatment,[12] 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.[13]

In March 2008, Thornberry claimed that almost every child in Islington had been mugged at some stage.[14] 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.[15] However, the comments were seen as a hindrance to Labour London mayor Ken Livingstone's re-election campaign.[16]

Though normally voting with the Whip, Thornberry has voted against the 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,[17][18] 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.[19] 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.[20]

In May 2010, Thornberry was re-elected as MP for Islington South and Finsbury with an increased majority,[21] in a seat identified as the Liberal Democrats' top target in England for the 2010 election.[22]

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,[23] green jobs,[24] and fuel poverty.[25] 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.[26][27]

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.[28] She criticised government over the Winterborne View care home abuse scandal, calling for an investigation into the affair.[29] 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.[30]

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",[31] and has taken an active role in holding the government to account. She has highlighted the lack of prosecutions over corporate manslaughter,[31] the need for action against white-collar crime,[32] links between Liam Fox and lobbyists,[33] and posed "serious questions" arising from the CPS’s prosecution of Mark Kennedy.[34]

Thornberry has called for action from Dominic Grieve over Applied Language Solutions' failure to provide interpreters for court proceedings,[35] and called on the Attorney General to ensure that allegations of bribery involving Bernie Ecclestone were properly investigated.[36]

In 2011 Thornberry challenged David Cameron over his false claims about wages at Islington Council,[37] campaigning against government measures which have exacerbated child poverty in Islington,[38] and answering over 1,000 enquiries a month from constituents.[39]

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.[40] She was given a score of 86% in favour of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality by Stonewall.[41] On 5 February 2013 she voted in favour in the House of Commons Second Reading vote on marriage equality in Britain.[42]


Social housing campaign[edit]

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.[43] Some related claims in the article regarding Emily Thornberry's involvement in the matter were later retracted by the paper.[44]

Electoral Commission complaint[edit]

In 2006 67% of people in Islington had registered for the forthcoming council elections.[45] 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."[46]

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".[47] 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".[48] The Committee on Standards and Privileges agreed with his findings and found that the evidence did not support Hitchen's claims.[47]

Personal life[edit]

Thornberry has lived in Islington since the early 1990s. She has two sons (born December 1991 and July 1999) and a daughter (born November 1993). She married Christopher Nugee[49] QC of Wilberforce Chambers in July 1991 in the borough of Tower Hamlets. He is a High Court judge, and they live in Barnsbury. Since 1993 she has lived on Richmond Crescent, where Tony Blair lived until the 1997 general election, moving in on the same day that the Blairs moved in.[citation needed] She also part-owns properties in Guildford and South London.[43][50]

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.[51] The Labour Party opposes selection and Thornberry was widely criticised over the issue as a result.[52] 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.[53] Thornberry's daughter now also attends the school.[54] She defended her position by stating she felt the school should not have moved from its original location.[55]


  1. ^ The Committee Office, House of Commons. "House of Commons - Defence - Third Report". Parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  2. ^ Edemariam, Aida (19 May 2009). "Right, so just what do you do all day?". The Guardian (London). 
  3. ^ The UN Security Council: From the Cold War to the 21st Century - David Malone - Google Books. books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  4. ^ Dod's parliamentary companion guide to the general election, 2005 - Valerie Passmore, David Roe - Google Books. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
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  8. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (2005-05-24). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 24 May 2005 (pt 26)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  9. ^ "Housing Association (Rights and Representation of Residents) Bill". Publications.parliament.uk. 2007-02-28. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  10. ^ Cave Review
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 20 May 2008 (pt 0006)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  13. ^ http://www.stonewall.org.uk/media/current_releases/2373.asp
  14. ^ Adams, Stephen (2008-03-05). "'All children are victims of muggings'". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  15. ^ "MP claims 'most teenagers' mugged". BBC News. 2008-03-04. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  16. ^ "Islington Tribune - News: MP’s angst at mugging claim". Thecnj.com. 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  17. ^ Independent, 25 April 2010
  18. ^ Eddie Mair (2009-05-21). "PM: The AM Glass Box". BBC. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  19. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (2009-11-18). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 18 Nov 2009 (pt 0002)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  20. ^ "Emily Thornberry is the Labour MP for Islington South & Finsbury and Shadow Health & Social Care Ministe". emilythornberry.com. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  21. ^ "Jubilant Emily Thornberry defeats Lib Dem Bridget Fox in Islington South & Finsbury". Islington Tribune. 2010-05-07. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  22. ^ Sponsored by (20 March 2010). "Election campaigning: A tale of two constituencies". The Economist. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  23. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 08 July 2010 (pt 0001)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  24. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (2010-07-01). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 01 July 2010 (pt 0002)". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  25. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 16 Sep 2010 (pt 0001)". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  26. ^ "New job cheers MP Emily Thornberry after shadow cabinet heartbreak - News". Islington Gazette. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  27. ^ "Emily Thornberry set to shadow every Coalition move on health". Islington Tribune. 2010-10-15. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  28. ^ "BBC News - Southern Cross: Government tries to reassure residents". Bbc.co.uk. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  29. ^ Mulholland, Helene (2011-06-07). "Government could order independent inquiry into Winterbourne View". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  30. ^ Coalition watch
  31. ^ a b "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 20 Mar 2012 (pt 0001)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  32. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 07 Feb 2012 (pt 0001)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  33. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 11 Oct 2011 (pt 0001)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  34. ^ "Emily Thornberry is the Labour MP for Islington South & Finsbury and Shadow Health & Social Care Minister". Emilythornberry.com. 2011-12-06. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  35. ^ Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent (19 March 2012). "Private court interpretation company 'should face contempt proceedings". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  36. ^ Anthony Bond (2011-11-18). "Bernie Ecclestone faces Serious Fraud Office inquiry after he paid Gerhard Gribkowsky £27m". London: Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  37. ^ "Still no apology from Prime Minister David Cameron for salary ‘lie’". Camden New Journal. 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  38. ^ "News Emily Thornberry is the Labour MP for Islington South & Finsbury and Shadow Health & Social Care Minister". emilythornberry.com. 2012-01-16. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  39. ^ Edemariam, Aida (19 May 2009). "Right, so just what do you do all day?". The Guardian (London). 
  40. ^ {http://www.lesbilicious.co.uk/stonewall-awards-shortlist-announced} Stonewall 2008
  41. ^ {http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/stonewall_mp_voting_records_2010_1.pdf> Stonewall 2010
  42. ^ {http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130205/debtext/130205-0004.htm} The House of Commons.2013.Marriage (Same Sex Couples)Bill 2012-2013.
  43. ^ a b "Islington Tribune - News: auction". Thecnj.com. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  44. ^ "emily thornberry". Thecnj.com. 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  45. ^ "MP 'unwise' to alter news release". BBC News. 29 October 2007. 
  46. ^ "Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Annual Report". 27 October 2007. 
  47. ^ a b http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmstnprv/1367/1367.pdf
  48. ^ http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmcomstan/1012/1012.pdf
  49. ^ "Barristers". Wilberforce. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  50. ^ "Democracy Live – Your representatives – Emily Thornberry". BBC News. 
  51. ^ "Dame Alice Owen's School - Admissions". Damealiceowens.herts.sch.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  52. ^ "Hypocrisy at the heart of Labour's education policy". The Daily Telegraph (London). 28 April 2005. 
  53. ^ Evening Standard comment (2005-04-27). "Labour school selection row - News - Evening Standard". Thisislondon.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  54. ^ "Janet Street-Porter: 13 years on: Who's the heir to Blair's lair?". The Independent (London). 25 April 2010. 
  55. ^ http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Labour+%27woman+of+principle%27+sends+her+children+to+selective+school-a0131976324

External links[edit]

Audio clips[edit]

News items[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Chris Smith
Member of Parliament for Islington South and Finsbury
Political offices
Preceded by
Baroness Scotland
Shadow Attorney General