|The Right Honourable
Official parliamentary portrait, June 2017
|Shadow First Secretary of State|
14 June 2017
|Preceded by||Angela Eagle (2016)|
|Shadow Foreign Secretary|
27 June 2016
|Preceded by||Hilary Benn|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union|
20 July 2016 – 6 October 2016
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Keir Starmer|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Defence|
5 January 2016 – 27 June 2016
|Shadowing||Sir Michael Fallon|
|Preceded by||Maria Eagle|
|Succeeded by||Clive Lewis|
|Shadow Minister of State for Employment|
16 September 2015 – 6 January 2016
|Preceded by||Stephen Timms|
|Succeeded by||Nick Thomas-Symonds|
|Shadow Attorney General|
7 October 2011 – 3 December 2014
|Preceded by||The Baroness Scotland of Asthal|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Bach|
|Member of Parliament
for Islington South and Finsbury
5 May 2005
|Preceded by||Chris Smith|
27 July 1960 |
|Spouse(s)||Christopher Nugee (m. 1991)|
|Alma mater||University of Kent|
Thornberry was born in north Surrey, the daughter of Sallie and Cedric Thornberry. She studied Law at the University of Kent before practising as a barrister from 1985 to 2005, specialising in human rights law under the guidance of Michael Mansfield. She was first elected to Parliament in 2005, serving on the Communities and Local Government Select Committee from 2005 to 2010. In the 2005–10 Parliament, she spoke out on both housing issues and issues relating to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, as well as voting against the whip on issues relating to national security on several occasions.
Thornberry was re-elected in the 2010 general election, and appointed Shadow Attorney General in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet, serving until she resigned on 20 November 2014 after sending a tweet that some perceived as snobbish. She was again re-elected in the 2015 general election. After Jeremy Corbyn won the 2015 leadership election on 12 September, Thornberry was appointed Shadow Minister of State for Employment. In a shadow cabinet reshuffle in January 2016, she became Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, replacing Maria Eagle. In June 2016, she was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in another reshuffle. She was also Shadow "Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union" from July 2016 to October 2016. Following the June 2017 general election, she was appointed the additional role of Shadow First Secretary of State.
- 1 Before Parliament
- 2 Parliamentary career
- 3 Campaigns
- 4 Personal life
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Thornberry was born in north Surrey to Cedric Thornberry, an international lawyer and 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; with her two brothers, she lived with their mother who later became a Labour councillor and mayor. Her father became a United Nations Assistant Secretary General and worked as a consultant for NATO.
She was educated at the University of Kent at Canterbury where she studied Law. She practised as a barrister specialising in human rights law from 1985 to 2005 under Michael Mansfield QC at Tooks Chambers.
Early parliamentary career (2005–10)
Following the decision of Chris Smith MP not to stand again, Thornberry was selected as the Labour candidate for Islington South and Finsbury for the 2005 general election through an all women shortlist of prospective candidates. She was elected to Parliament with a majority of 484. Nick Smith (who subsequently was elected to Parliament representing Blaenau Gwent), 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 and Local Government Select Committee during the 2005–10 Parliament. She is 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 also 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 tenants over their landlords. Many of the ideas from this bill were taken up by the Cave Review. On environmental matters, Thornberry has worked with Friends of the Earth and World Wide Fund for Nature to campaign 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.
Electoral Commission complaint
In 2006, 67% of people in Islington had registered for the forthcoming council elections.
Steve Hitchins, leader of Islington Council, complained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Philip Mawer, that 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.
In March 2008, Thornberry said she suspected that there are hardly any children in Islington who have not been mugged at some stage. This was denied by the Metropolitan Police as 'speculation', pointing out that out of a borough total population of 180,000, only 750 people under 18 had reported being the victims of mugging in 2007. However, the comments were deemed a hindrance to Labour London Mayor Ken Livingstone's re-election campaign.
Though normally voting with the Labour Whip, Thornberry voted against her party's 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 Act 2008, and against the renewal of Trident. Thornberry emerged unscathed from the expenses scandal. In 2009, she was appointed a ministerial aide in the Department of Energy and Climate Change and attended the Copenhagen Summit in December that year with Joan Ruddock and Ed Miliband.
Opposition under Ed Miliband (2010–15)
In May 2010, Thornberry was returned 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 general election.
Thornberry was promoted to Shadow Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change in May 2010. In the role she shadowed Charles Hendry. 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 coalition 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, in which capacity she attended Shadow Cabinet meetings. Thornberry called for action by 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 Thornberry claims have exacerbated child poverty in Islington, and answering over 1,000 enquiries a month from constituents.
White Van Tweet
Thornberry resigned her Shadow Cabinet position on 20 November 2014, shortly after the polls closed in the Rochester and Strood by-election. Earlier in the day, she had received much criticism after tweeting a photograph of a house in the constituency adorned with three flags of St George and the owner's white van parked outside 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 asserted her 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".
Opposition under Jeremy Corbyn (2015–)
In September 2015, she was appointed Shadow Minister for Employment by the new Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. She was promoted to Shadow Defence Secretary in January 2016, replacing Maria Eagle. On being appointed, Thornberry was interviewed by the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS). She said: "I have actually quite a lot more experience than people might think I do. As I say I have a member of the armed forces I have a brother-in-law who's a general. I was actually made an honorary lieutenant colonel when I was doing court-martials [sic] when I was a barrister and so I have a certain amount of experience of the military there."
The Ministry of Defence denied this claim and Thornberry subsequently admitted she had thought she was made a colonel to have access to the officers' mess, not to appear in courts-martial. During a Labour discussion about the nuclear deterrent, Thornberry admitted that she did not know what the United States nuclear defence rating, Defcon, is.
In a September 2016 TV interview, whilst serving as shadow foreign minister, Thornberry was asked to name the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (Jean-Marc Ayrault). Thornberry confirmed that she was unable to name the minister, and accused the interviewer of "pub-quizzing" and sexism. Thornberry then asked to discuss the situation of North Korea, so the interviewer asked if she knew who the South Korean president was, but Thornberry did not know, saying that the interview was descending into a pub quiz. Female journalists and politicians, including Isabel Hardman and Ruth Davidson, quickly criticised Thornberry for using an allegation of sexism to cover her own poor performance. Thornberry then appeared on Radio 4 to say that the interview had been sexist because the interviewer had not asked such questions of a man because the interviewer assumed that a man would know the answer. However, the interviewer had previously asked a man, Alan Johnson, comparable factual questions. Johnson had also been unable to answer.
Thornberry has been criticised for referring to opposing parties' views as "bollocks". In 2016, Corbyn defended her use of the word when she rebuked the Prime Minister David Cameron suggesting her scepticism over the Trident missile system meant she "doesn't believe in defence". The following year, she used the word live on BBC television against the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon after he accused her of wanting to renegotiate British sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.
Thornberry's constituency falls within the London Borough of Islington, one of the most deprived areas of the country with disproportionately high house prices and private sector rents. Thornberry has frequently campaigned for a greater commitment to affordable and social housing. She was criticised when the local Islington Tribune newspaper discovered that her husband had bought a former social house, which was being rented out to her aides. Thornberry said the purchase was "not about property speculation".
She has supported measures by Islington Council to free up under-occupied homes by supporting tenants to downsize and to stop foreign investors from buying new homes and leaving them empty. She has also called for a greater degree of control over private sector rents and more support for social house-building.
In 2015 Thornberry clashed with Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, over the proposed redevelopments of the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre, the sorting office run by the Royal Mail, and the Clerkenwell Fire Station, both in her constituency. Camden and Islington councils sought to require a high proportion of the resulting new homes to be made available for social rent, but Johnson overturned this and allowed homes designated as "affordable" to charge rents of up to 80 percent of market rates. Thornberry strongly criticised Johnson, describing his definition of affordability as "nonsense", and called for at least 50% of homes in the new developments to be made available for social rent.
Statue of Emily Davison
In 2013, the 100th anniversary of the death of the suffragette Emily Davison (who threw herself under the King's horse during the campaign for women's emancipation), Thornberry called for a statue commemorating Davison in Parliament. She arranged a public meeting to discuss options for a memorial, attended by around 800 people, and settled on the idea of a statue as an appropriate memorial, pointing out that there were very few statues of female politicians and activists in Parliament.
In March 2015, Thornberry launched a campaign for a new Equal Pay Act. She said that, 45 years after the original Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970, women still earned 19% less than men on average. She called for "a profound culture change and radical legislation" to close the pay gap, and recommended measures to require companies where women make a successful complaint of pay discrimination to audit their practices and implement plans to ensure that men and women are paid equally for equal work. She further argued for measures to make it easier to negotiate settlements in equal pay cases, for improved access to justice by waiving tribunal fees for a limited period, and to close loopholes whereby outsourcing and insecure working conditions often lead to unequal pay for women.
Thornberry has lived in Islington since the early 1990s. In July 1991 she married fellow-barrister Sir 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). Sir Christopher later became a Queen's Counsel, then a High Court Judge, when he was knighted (whereupon she became formally styled Lady Nugee MP, a title she does not use). 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. Thornberry also part-owns properties in Guildford and South London.
In April 2005, it emerged that Thornberry had sent her son to the partially selective Dame Alice Owen's State School 14 miles (23 km) away from her home and outside her constituency. The school was formerly based in Islington and still reserves ten per cent 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 said: "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?" Later, Thornberry's daughter also attended the school.
- "Privy Council appointments: Diane Abbott, Richard Benyon and Emily Thornberry – Press releases – GOV.UK".
- "Labour's Emily Thornberry quits over 'snobby' tweet". BBC News. 21 November 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
- Sparrow, Andrew (6 January 2015). "Emily Thornberry named shadow defence secretary in Labour reshuffle". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
- "Jeremy Corbyn unveils new top team after resignations". BBC News. 27 June 2016.
- Pope, Conor (20 July 2016). "Emily Thornberry appointed to shadow Brexit role in mini-reshuffle | LabourList". LabourList. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- The Committee Office, House of Commons. "House of Commons – Defence – Third Report". Parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Edemariam, Aida (19 May 2009). "Right, so just what do you do all day?". The Guardian. London.
- The UN Security Council: From the Cold War to the 21st Century – David Malone. Google Books. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Dod's parliamentary companion guide to the general election, 2005 – Valerie Passmore, David Roe. Google Books. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Canterbury: Constituency". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Standard Note SN/PC/05057" (PDF). House of Commons Library. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 April 2010.
- "Election 2005 – Islington South & Finsbury". BBC News.
- Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (24 May 2005). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 24 May 2005 (pt 26)". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Housing Association (Rights and Representation of Residents) Bill". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 28 February 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Cave Review Archived 14 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
- http://www.ecca.org.uk/charity_champion_award_2006.doc. Retrieved 18 November 2008. Missing or empty
- "MP 'unwise' to alter news release". BBC News. 29 October 2007.
- "PCS Annual Report 18.10.071.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- Adams, Stephen (5 March 2008). "All children are victims of muggings". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "MP claims 'most teenagers' mugged". BBC News. 4 March 2008. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Islington Tribune – News: MP’s angst at mugging claim". Thecnj.com. 7 March 2008. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Street-Porter, Janet (25 April 2010). "13 years on: Who's the heir to Blair's lair?". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
- Mair, Eddie (21 May 2009). "PM: The AM Glass Box". BBC. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Emily Thornberry is the Labour MP for Islington South & Finsbury and Shadow Health & Social Care Minister". emilythornberry.com. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Jubilant Emily Thornberry defeats Lib Dem Bridget Fox in Islington South & Finsbury". Islington Tribune. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Election campaigning: A tale of two constituencies". The Economist. 20 March 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Emily Thornberry MP". Parliament UK. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
- Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 8 July 2010 (pt 0001)". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "New job cheers MP Emily Thornberry after shadow cabinet heartbreak". Islington Gazette. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Emily Thornberry set to shadow every Coalition move on health". Islington Tribune. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Southern Cross: Government tries to reassure residents". BBC News. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Mulholland, Helene (7 June 2011). "Government could order independent inquiry into Winterbourne View". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Coalition watch". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
- "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 20 Mar 2012 (pt 0001)". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Bowcott, Owen (19 March 2012). "Private court interpretation company 'should face contempt proceedings". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Bond, Anthony (18 November 2011). "Bernie Ecclestone faces Serious Fraud Office inquiry after he paid Gerhard Gribkowsky £27m". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Still no apology from Prime Minister David Cameron for salary 'lie'". Camden New Journal. 8 July 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "News Emily Thornberry is the Labour MP for Islington South & Finsbury and Shadow Health & Social Care Minister". emilythornberry.com. 16 January 2012. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Edemariam, Aida (19 May 2009). "Right, so just what do you do all day?". The Guardian. London.
- Mason, Rowena (20 November 2014). "Emily Thornberry resigns from shadow cabinet over Rochester tweet". The Guardian.
- "Labour's Emily Thornberry quits over tweet". BBC News. 20 November 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
- "Miliband: Thornberry's 'white van, flag' tweet lacked respect". BBC News. 21 November 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
- "Emily Thornberry: How one tweet led to her resignation". BBC News. 21 November 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
- "Emily Thornberry defends Labour defence appointment". BBC News. 6 January 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- "Murnaghan interviews Emily Thornberry". Sky Corporate. 17 January 2016. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
- "Labour's shadow defence secretary 'does not understand what Defcon One means'". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
- "Emily Thornberry accuses Sky's Murnaghan of 'sexism'".
- "Thornberry: Having to fight harder to be taken seriously 'is sexist', Westminster Hour – BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
- Perraudin, Frances (11 September 2016). "Emily Thornberry accuses Sky presenter Murnaghan of sexism". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
- "Emily Thornberry gets away with mouthing swearword in Commons". The Guardian. 18 May 2016. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
- "Emily Thornberry Accuses Michael Fallon of talking "Bollocks" live on the BBC". The Independent. 14 May 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
- "London Property Watch". London Property Watch. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- Brooks-Pollock, Tom (21 November 2014). "Profile: Emily Thornberry". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- "Islington Tribune – News: auction". Thecnj.com. 31 August 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Emily Thornberry: 'Make it easier for elderly to downsize'". Islington Tribune. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 05 Feb 2014 (pt 0001)". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 04 Mar 2015 (pt 0001)". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- Clark, Tim (10 July 2014). "MP: 'Decision on Mt Pleasant should be stripped from mayor'". Architects Journal. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- "MPs call for statue of Emily Davison in parliament". The Guardian.
- "45 years after the Equal Pay Act, there's still a long way to go".
- Bright, Sam (7 March 2015). "We need a new Equal Pay Act". New Statesman. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- "Barristers". Wilberforce. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Fisher, Lucy (22 November 2014). "Rich lawyer from council house". The Times. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
- "Islington South and Finsbury – Liberals are irrelevant, says Labour MP". politics.co.uk. 22 April 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- "Democracy Live – Your representatives – Emily Thornberry". BBC News.
- "Dame Alice Owen's School – Admissions". Damealiceowens.herts.sch.uk. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Hypocrisy at the heart of Labour's education policy". The Daily Telegraph. London. 28 April 2005.
- "Janet Street-Porter: 13 years on: Who's the heir to Blair's lair?". The Independent. London. 25 April 2010.
- Official website
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
- Contributions in Parliament during 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 at Hansard Archives
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Islington South & Finsbury Labour Party
- Debretts People of Today
- 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
The Baroness Scotland of Asthal
|Shadow Attorney General
The Lord Bach
|Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
|Shadow Foreign Secretary
|New office||Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
Title last held byAngela Eagle
|Shadow First Secretary of State