Jonathan Ashworth

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Jonathan Ashworth
Official portrait of Jonathan Ashworth MP crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2020
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Assumed office
29 November 2021
LeaderKeir Starmer
Preceded byJonathan Reynolds
Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care[a]
In office
7 October 2016 – 29 November 2021
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Keir Starmer
Preceded byDiane Abbott
Succeeded byWes Streeting
Shadow Minister without Portfolio
In office
14 September 2015 – 7 October 2016
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded byJon Trickett
Succeeded byAndrew Gwynne
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
In office
7 October 2013 – 14 September 2015
LeaderEd Miliband
Deputy Chairman of the National Executive Committee
In office
11 July 2013 – 7 October 2016
LeaderEd Miliband
Harriet Harman (Acting)
Jeremy Corbyn
Preceded byTom Watson
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Member of Parliament
for Leicester South
Assumed office
5 May 2011
Preceded byPeter Soulsby
Majority22,675 (45.2%)
Personal details
Jonathan Michael Graham Ashworth

(1978-10-14) 14 October 1978 (age 43)
Salford, Greater Manchester, England
Political partyLabour and Co-operative
Emilie Oldknow
(m. 2010)
Alma materDurham University
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

Jonathan Michael Graham Ashworth (born 14 October 1978) is a British politician serving as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions since 2021. A member of the Labour and Co-operative parties, he has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Leicester South since 2011.

Prior to his election to Parliament, Ashworth worked as an adviser to Gordon Brown and head of party relations for Ed Miliband.[1] He was first elected at a by-election in 2011, following the resignation of his predecessor Peter Soulsby.

In October 2016, Ashworth was appointed Shadow Health Secretary by party leader Jeremy Corbyn, shadowing Jeremy Hunt and later Matt Hancock alongside the Shadow Minister for Social Care Barbara Keeley.[2][3] In April 2020, Ashworth was reappointed to the position by new leader Keir Starmer, gaining the additional shadow portfolio of social care in England. In 2021, Ashworth was appointed Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary and was succeeded by Wes Streeting.


Ashworth was born in Salford, brought up in north Manchester and educated at Philips High School in Whitefield and Bury College[4] before studying politics and philosophy at the University of Durham.[5][6] In 2000 he served as National Secretary of Labour Students.[7]

Political career[edit]

Labour Party Officer (2001–2004)[edit]

Ashworth began working for the Labour Party as a Political Research Officer in 2001, and was the Economics and Welfare Policy Officer from 2002 to 2004.[8] In 2003, he was seconded to the Scottish Labour Party to work on the Scottish Parliament election campaign, where he worked closely with then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. Following the election, Scottish Labour remained the single-largest party at Holyrood and were re-elected, but the coalition with the Scottish Lib Dems remained in place.[citation needed]

Special Adviser (2004–2011)[edit]

From 2004, he was appointed as Special Adviser to Chief Secretaries to the Treasury Paul Boateng, Des Browne[9] and Stephen Timms, but in practice he worked for Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. His main job was liaising with the Labour movement and an Evening Standard profile said "his contact book was "stuffed with constituency officers and union organisers", and there was newspaper speculation that he would be Political Secretary at 10 Downing Street in a potential future Brown government.[10]

When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in June 2007, Ashworth was appointed deputy Political Secretary with the role of linking the Government to the trade unions.[7] There was speculation later that year that Ashworth might be selected to replace John Prescott as the official Labour candidate for Kingston upon Hull East,[11] although it came to nothing. Ashworth spent most of the Crewe and Nantwich by-election campaign in the constituency.[12]

His experience at Downing Street during the outbreak of swine flu in 2009 meant that he was one of the few people still working in a high-profile Westminster post in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic occurred [13] though, being in opposition then, he was unable to contribute as fully as he might have.

After the Labour Party were defeated at the 2010 general election, Ashworth became Political Secretary to the acting party leader Harriet Harman. He did not publicly support any candidate in the subsequent leadership election because of his role working for Harriet Harman but he was described as a "key member" of Ed Miliband's team on the day after Miliband won the Labour leadership election.[14] When Miliband was elected as Leader of the Labour Party, he asked Ashworth to join his office as Head of Party Relations.[1]

Parliamentary Candidate (2011)[edit]

With a general election imminent, Ashworth was identified as someone who the Labour Party leadership wished to find a seat for. He was linked with a possible candidature in Mansfield should the sitting Member of Parliament (MP) Alan Meale decide to stand down, but Meale decided to seek re-election despite widespread speculation he was to retire from Parliament. Ashworth was then identified as a potential candidate for Nottingham East when the sitting MP John Heppell retired,[15] but the selection went to former MP Chris Leslie when the Labour National Executive Committee chose to impose Leslie at the last minute.[16]

Ashworth sought selection in Leicester South in 2011 when the sitting MP Peter Soulsby decided to resign to seek election as Mayor of Leicester. He was immediately identified as the front-runner for the selection and was backed by the major trade unions including his own Unite, GMB and UNISON.[citation needed]

Ashworth was also endorsed by the Co-operative Party and is also a Co-operative Party MP.[17] He was selected on the first ballot by the local party, and held the seat with an increased majority on 5 May 2011.[18]

Member of Parliament (2011–)[edit]

Ashworth served as an Opposition Whip from October 2011 to October 2013, and a Shadow Minister of State for the Cabinet Office from October 2013 to September 2015.[19]

Following the row over alleged undue influence of trade unions in the Labour Party in the Falkirk Parliamentary Selection in 2013, Ashworth penned a piece for The Daily Telegraph claiming that it is ordinary people – not the unions – who choose Labour MPs.[20]

On 11 July 2013, Ashworth replaced Tom Watson as Deputy Chairman of the National Executive Committee.[21]

Ashworth nominated Yvette Cooper to be Leader of the Labour Party following the resignation of Ed Miliband after the 2015 general election.[22] He nominated Tom Watson as Deputy Leader.[23]

Following his election as Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn appointed Ashworth to the Shadow Cabinet role of Shadow Minister without Portfolio.[24] In December 2015, Ashworth voted against the resolution to authorise RAF bombing of ISIL in Syria.[25]

Ashworth in 2017

Ashworth was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Health in October 2016. Following the 2017 general election, he went on record to say a Labour government would not repeal the controversial Health and Social Care Act 2012 despite Labour's manifesto commitment to do so.[26]

In December 2019, it was reported 4,668 patient deaths during the year were linked to safety incidents at hospital, mental health and ambulance trusts. Ashworth held "years of Tory cutbacks" responsible for understaffing and for increasing pressures, which put patients at risk.[27]

On 10 December 2019, it emerged that Ashworth had told a friend that he did not believe Labour would win the 2019 general election due to be held two days later. He said that this was largely due to the unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn and voters outside the cities blaming Labour for not delivering Brexit. His friend, who was a Conservative activist, leaked a recording of the conversation to Guido Fawkes. Ashworth later claimed that he was joking and just "joshing around".[28]

Ashworth supported Lisa Nandy in the 2020 Labour Party leadership election.[29] When Keir Starmer won the contest, he decided to keep Ashworth on as Shadow Health Secretary, extending his portfolio to include social care.

In the November 2021 Shadow Cabinet reshuffle, Ashworth became Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Ashworth became engaged to Emilie Oldknow, the East Midlands Regional Director for the Labour Party, in 2008.[31] She was the official Labour candidate for Sherwood at the 2010 general election, but was not elected.[32] Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah attended the couple's wedding on 3 July 2010 in Derbyshire.[33] They have a daughter, Gracie, born in May 2011 shortly after his by-election victory,[34] and a second daughter, Annie.[35]

He has used his role as shadow health secretary to advocate legislation to prevent alcoholism, inspired by his own experience of his father who was alcoholic.[36][37]


  1. ^ Health from 2016 to April 2020. Barbara Keeley held the brief of social care in England until Keir Starmer appointed Ashworth with the additional responsibilities of social care.


  1. ^ a b Troughton, Adrian (21 March 2011). "Labour candidate Ashworth promises to be a 'champion' for city if he wins by-election". Leicester Mercury. Archived from the original on 23 April 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  2. ^ "Shadow Cabinet". The Labour Party. Archived from the original on 5 March 2020. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  3. ^ "Her Majesty's Official Opposition: The Shadow Cabinet". UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 15 February 2020. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  4. ^ "Ashworth, Jonathan Michael Graham". Who's Who 2012 (online ed.). A & C Black. 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Cabinet and ministerial appointments following the June 2017 general election" (PDF). NHS Providers. 6 July 2017. p. 10. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 November 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  6. ^ "Your Strong Voice for Leicester South: Jon Ashworth: Standing to be your new MP". Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Bright young things beavering away for Team Brown". London Evening Standard. 27 June 2007.
  8. ^ "Jon Ashworth MP". BBC Democracy Live. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  9. ^ "The Times guide to the Government". The Times. London. 13 May 2005.
  10. ^ "Gordon gets his team prepared to take over No 10". London Evening Standard. 6 September 2006.
  11. ^ "Who's in the running to succeed Prescott?". Hull Daily Mail. 22 August 2007.
  12. ^ Hinsliff, Gaby (25 May 2008). "Labour in Turmoil: Is this the beginning of the end for Brown?". The Observer. London.
  13. ^ Elgot, Jessica (13 March 2021). "No 10 was a plague pit". The Guardian.
  14. ^ Elliott, Francis; Smyth, Chris (27 September 2010). "Dallas and demand management: what really does it for Ed". The Times. London.
  15. ^ Walker, Charles (3 April 2010). "MP calls it a day after a royal time". Nottingham Evening Post.
  16. ^ Brady, Brian (11 April 2010). "Activists threaten rebellion as Brown helps secure seat for ally". Independent on Sunday. London. p. 10.
  17. ^ "Labour is to reveal MP candidates". Leicester Mercury. 17 March 2011.
  18. ^ Troughton, Adrian (7 May 2011). "Great day for Labour capped by victory in by-election". Leicester Mercury.
  19. ^ "Parliamentary career for Jonathan Ashworth - MPs and Lords - UK Parliament". Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  20. ^ Ashworth, Jon (4 July 2013). "Labour's links to the trade unions? I'm proud of them". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 7 July 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  21. ^ Ferguson, Mark (11 July 2013). "Jonathan Ashworth to replace Tom Watson on Labour's NEC". LabourList. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  22. ^ Martin, Dan (9 June 2015). "Jon Ashworth backs Yvette Cooper over city neighbour Liz Kendall in Labour leadership race". Leicester Mercury. Archived from the original on 17 September 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  23. ^ "Who nominated who in the 2015 Labour deputy leadership election?". New Statesman. London. Archived from the original on 25 December 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  24. ^ Martin, Dan (14 September 2015). "Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth becomes Jeremy Corbyn's shadow minister without portfolio". Leicester Mercury. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  25. ^ Martin, Dan (3 December 2015). "Jon Ashworth the only MP from Leicester and Leicestershire to vote against Syria air strikes". Leicester Mercury. Archived from the original on 25 December 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  26. ^ "Labour Will not Roll Back Health and Social Care Act – Healthcare Times". Archived from the original on 1 October 2017.
  27. ^ Deaths of 4,600 NHS patients linked to safety incidents Archived 9 December 2019 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian
  28. ^ "General election 2019: Jonathan Ashworth apologises after Corbyn criticism leak". BBC News. 10 December 2019. Archived from the original on 11 December 2019. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  29. ^ "Here are the 23 MPs backing Wigan's Lisa Nandy in the Labour Party leadership contest". Retrieved 9 February 2020.[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ "Big reshuffle sees Cooper, Streeting, Lammy, Reynolds, Phillipson promoted". LabourList. 29 November 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ Schofield, Kevin (25 February 2020). "Fresh blow for Labour as senior official dubbed 'brains of the party' quits". Politics Home. Archived from the original on 6 April 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  32. ^ Parsons, Rob (8 May 2010). "Farmer Mark in a thriller at dawn". Nottingham Evening Post.
  33. ^ "Guest Appearance". The Sunday Telegraph. London. 4 July 2010.
  34. ^ "Oh baby! Joy for city's new MP as Gracie born". Leicester Mercury. 23 May 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2016.[permanent dead link]
  35. ^ "Jonathan Ashworth interrupted by daughter during BBC News interview". BBC News. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  36. ^ Asthana, Anushka, and Denis Campbell (30 December 2016). "'Dad was an alcoholic': MP Jonathan Ashworth urges action on drinking". The Guardian.
  37. ^ Smith, Mikey; Mack, Tom (21 November 2021). "MP cries during TV interview as he speaks about his alcoholic father". LeicestershireLive. Retrieved 22 November 2021.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Leicester South
Party political offices
Preceded by Deputy Chair of the Labour Party
Political offices
Preceded by Shadow Minister without Portfolio
Succeeded by
Preceded by Shadow Secretary of State for Health