Nick Thomas-Symonds

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Nick Thomas-Symonds
Official portrait, 2023
Shadow Minister without Portfolio
Assumed office
4 September 2023
LeaderKeir Starmer
Preceded byConor McGinn
Shadow President of the Board of Trade
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade
In office
29 November 2021 – 4 September 2023
LeaderKeir Starmer
Preceded byEmily Thornberry
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
5 April 2020 – 29 November 2021
LeaderKeir Starmer
Preceded byDiane Abbott
Succeeded byYvette Cooper
Shadow Minister for Security
In office
5 July 2017 – 5 April 2020
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byConor McGinn
Shadow Solicitor General for England and Wales
In office
9 October 2016 – 5 April 2020
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded byJo Stevens
Succeeded byEllie Reeves
Shadow Minister for Employment
In office
11 January 2016 – 27 June 2016
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded byEmily Thornberry
Succeeded byMargaret Greenwood
Shadow Minister for Pensions
In office
17 September 2015 – 11 January 2016
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded byGregg McClymont
Succeeded byAngela Rayner
Member of Parliament
for Torfaen
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded byPaul Murphy
Majority3,742 (10.1%)
Personal details
Born (1980-05-26) 26 May 1980 (age 43)
Blaenavon, Wales
Political partyLabour
SpouseRebecca Nelson
Alma materSt Edmund Hall, Oxford
WebsiteOfficial website

Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds FRHistS (born 26 May 1980) is a British academic, barrister and politician who has been Shadow Minister without Portfolio since 2023.[1] A member of the Labour Party, he has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Torfaen since 2015.[2]

Thomas-Symonds served as Shadow Home Secretary from 2020 to 2021,[3] and held several junior shadow portfolios from 2015 to 2020. Prior to his election to Parliament, he was a chancery and commercial barrister at Civitas Law.[4][5] He is also the author of books on Clement Attlee, Nye Beavan and Harold Wilson.

Early life and education[edit]

Thomas-Symonds was born in Panteg Hospital, Griffithstown, Torfaen, and was brought up in Blaenavon. His father was a steelworker and industrial chemist, and his mother was a secretary.[6] He attended St Felix R.C. Primary School, Blaenavon, and St Alban's R.C. High School, Pontypool. He then studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, between 1998 and 2001, where he gained a first.[7][6]


Legal career[edit]

Thomas-Symonds was called to the bar by Lincoln's Inn in October 2004[7] and developed a practice specialising in chancery and commercial law.

Academic career[edit]

Thomas-Symonds was appointed a tutor at St Edmund Hall, Oxford at the age of 21. He was later a lecturer in politics at the college, teaching British Politics and Government since 2000; Modern British Government and Politics; Government and Politics of Europe; and Government and Politics of the United States. Thomas-Symonds taught for other Oxford colleges, including Harris Manchester College. He also taught US Politics on the Oxford Department of Continuing Education's "Foundations of Diplomacy" course.[7] Between 2008 and 2009, he was the politics tutor of former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.[8][9][10] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2012.[11]

Thomas-Symonds has published two political biographies: Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan[12] and Attlee: A Life in Politics.[13]

On 1 September 2022, Thomas-Symonds published his third political biography, Harold Wilson: the Winner.

Political career[edit]

Thomas-Symonds was selected as prospective Labour parliamentary candidate for his home seat of Torfaen on 7 March 2015 and subsequently won the seat in the general election on 7 May 2015. He made his maiden speech on 28 May 2015.[14]

After a brief stint on the Justice Select Committee, he was appointed Shadow Pensions Minister on 17 September 2015 before being promoted to Shadow Employment Minister on 11 January 2016.[15][16] He resigned the role of Shadow Employment Minister on 27 June 2016,[17] later supporting Owen Smith in the 2016 Labour Party leadership election.[citation needed]

Thomas-Symonds accepted the position of Shadow Solicitor General on 11 October 2016, and on 3 July 2017 he was appointed as Shadow Security Minister within the Shadow Home Affairs Team.[18][19]

In his role as Shadow Solicitor General, Thomas-Symonds faced the Attorney General and Solicitor General in the House of Commons throughout the Brexit crisis, in place of the then Shadow Attorney General, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, who sat in the House of Lords.[20]

Thomas-Symonds raised the issue of low prosecution rates for rape case during his time in the role.[21]

During the Brexit debate, Thomas-Symonds regularly clashed with the then Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, across the despatch box.[citation needed]

In a debate on 3 December 2018, after The Sunday Times newspaper reported leaked excerpts of a recent letter sent by the Attorney General to Cabinet Ministers detailing legal advice on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal, Thomas-Symonds accused Cox of hiding his full legal advice on May's Brexit deal “for fear of the political consequences", stating that the government was "playing for time, hoping that the contempt proceedings take longer than the timetable for the meaningful vote".[22][23] Thomas-Symonds made an application to the Speaker for Parliament to consider holding the Government in contempt of Parliament.[24] The next day, 4 December, the Government was found in contempt of Parliament.[25]

On 24 September 2019, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled unanimously that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's prorogation of parliament was unlawful overturning the High Court's judgment, given by the Lord Chief Justice, in the government's favour. On the same day, leaked minutes of a conference call between cabinet ministers, including Cox, which took place after the prorogation had been approved by the Queen, detailed that Cox briefly told the cabinet at that time that in his view the prorogation was lawful and constitutional and that any accusations of unlawfulness "were motivated by political considerations". On 25 September 2019, Thomas-Symonds, facing Cox in the House of Commons, said that the Government "stands in shame" given what was "the most damning judicial indictment of a Government in modern times".[26]

Separately, Thomas-Symonds promoted reform of the structure of Bar professional training courses, to open up the profession to people from a range of backgrounds, arguing that in their current form a disproportionate number of places were being offered on courses when compared with the total opportunities for pupillage.[27]

Upon becoming Shadow Security Minister in July 2017, Thomas-Symonds said cybersecurity was one of his top priorities.[28]

Thomas-Symonds successfully convinced the Government to accept amendments to the Counterterrorism and Border Security Bill that nullified the risk the bill posed to removing the right to private legal advice.[29]

He has served as Chair of four All-Party Parliamentary Groups: Off-Patent Drugs; Industrial Heritage; Legal & Constitutional Affairs; and Archives & History.[30]

Thomas-Symonds was drawn in the ballot for a Private Members' Bill on 4 June 2015, and introduced the Off-Patent Drugs Bill. This ran out of time at Second Reading on 6 November 2015,[31] but substantial parts of the Bill were later incorporated into the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill on 29 January 2016.[32] As a result of promises secured by Thomas-Symonds, the British National Formulary has started to include off-label drugs in its new indication where there is sufficient evidence.[33]

On 8 December 2015, Nick Thomas-Symonds was chosen as 'Member to Watch' at the Welsh Politician of the Year Awards.[34]

Shadow Home Secretary[edit]

In April 2020, Thomas-Symonds was appointed as Shadow Home Secretary by Sir Keir Starmer, succeeding Diane Abbott. Amongst his first acts in post, Thomas-Symonds called on the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, to provide additional funding for organisations tackling domestic abuse.[35]

During the passage of the Immigration Bill, Thomas-Symonds pressed for the Government to abolish the Immigration Health Surcharge. In a U-Turn, Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to abolish it for health workers in May 2020.[36]

After the murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020, Thomas-Symonds urged the Prime Minister to "show leadership" in addressing structural racism and inequality.[37]

After the Reading terror attack in June 2020, Thomas-Symonds laid flowers at the scene[38] and called for a judge-led review into lone attackers.[39]

On immigration, Thomas-Symonds argued that the Conservatives lacked compassion and competence.[40]

In his first speech to party conference – the virtual "Labour Connect" of 2020, Thomas-Symonds spoke of Labour's "duty to tackle and prevent crime" and that his role "was to convince people that Labour will keep you, your family and your community safe".[41]

In January 2021, it was revealed that 400,000 pieces of police data has been accidentally deleted from the Police National Computer. Thomas-Symonds said: "You do not make our streets safer by losing such a substantial amount of information about criminal behaviour."[42]

During the Covid pandemic, Thomas-Symonds argued for better protections at the border, including comprehensive hotel quarantining for arrivals in the UK.[43]

On 12 February 2021, it was confirmed that Nick Thomas-Symonds was to be sworn of Her Majesty's Privy Council.[44]

In March 2021, Sarah Everard disappeared after leaving a friend's house near Clapham Common to walk home. In response to the tragedy, and the vigil held on Clapham Common, Thomas-Symonds called for action to end violence against women and girls, putting forward a 10-point plan alongside Labour's Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, Jess Phillips MP.[45] Thomas-Symonds also criticised the Government's Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which was at this time being debated in the House of Commons, for provisions which, he said, put protection of statues before the protection of women.[46]

In May 2021, alongside celebrities and other public figures, Thomas-Symonds was a signatory to an open letter from Stylist magazine which called on the government to address what it described as an "epidemic of male violence" by funding an "ongoing, high-profile, expert-informed awareness campaign on men's violence against women and girls".[47]

Shadow International Trade Secretary[edit]

In the November 2021 shadow cabinet reshuffle, he was demoted to Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade.[48]

Thomas-Symonds said it was "crucial that human rights, women's rights and workers' rights are embedded" in the UK trade negotiations. "When negotiating for new opportunities in exchange for our access to our markets, we must seek to promote high standards."[49] Thomas-Symonds urged action in trade deals to tackle climate change and criticised the UK Government for failing to include an explicit commitment to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees in the UK-Australia trade deal.[50]

Thomas-Symonds prioritised steel exports in his first intervention, writing to International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, urging her to negotiate with the United States to the section 232 steel tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump in 2018.[51] A deal was eventually reached on 23 March 2022.[52]

In his first full interview, Nick Thomas-Symonds said that the British public had been promised a US-UK trade deal and that one should be delivered.[53] When Prime Minister Liz Truss confirmed, on 20 September 2022, that there would be no US-UK trade negotiations in the short-to-medium term, Thomas-Symonds said: "The admission that there is no prospect of a trade deal with the USA is terrible news for the economy."[54]

On 3 March 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nick Thomas-Symonds called on the UK to place a total ban on exporting luxury goods to Russia to target the "Mayfair lifestyle" enjoyed by President Putin and his inner circle.[55]

On 2 August 2022, Nick Thomas-Symonds was named as one of the 39 UK personalities banned from entering Russia.[56]

On 28 January 2023, Nick Thomas-Symonds criticised the Conservative Government for failing to keep its manifesto promises on trade: "it's so frustrating of me to see the failure of the Government in trade. We've just passed the end of 2022. That was the point at which 80 per cent of our trade was meant to be covered by free-trade agreements according to the 2019 Conservative manifesto.[57]

Two days later, on 30 January 2023, Nick Thomas-Symonds hosted a Global Trade Reception where Labour hosted 100 ambassadors, diplomats and high commissioners - including from the US, Canada, France and Germany - as well as over 200 business leaders. At the event, Nick Thomas-Symonds declared that Labour was "pro-business, pro-trade and pro-worker".[58]

Personal life[edit]

Thomas-Symonds is married, and has three children.[6]

Selected works[edit]

  • Thomas-Symonds, Nicklaus (2010). Attlee: a life in politics. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1845117795.
  • Thomas-Symonds, Nicklaus (2014). Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1780762098.
  • Thomas-Symonds, Nicklaus (2022). Harold Wilson: The Winner. London: Orion Publishing Co. ISBN 978-1474611954.



  1. ^ "Labour reshuffle live: Angela Rayner gets new role as Keir Starmer reshuffles team". BBC News. Retrieved 4 September 2023.
  2. ^ "Torfaen". BBC News.
  3. ^ Walker, Peter (5 April 2020). "Three key appointments: Keir Starmer fills top shadow cabinet roles". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  4. ^ Simmons, Richard (10 April 2015). "City solicitors, a 22-year old UKIP law grad and a barrister standing for the Whigs: the legal profession's MP hopefuls". Lawyer 2B. Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Profile: Nick Thomas-Symonds". Civitas Law. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Maguire, Patrick (1 May 2020). "The history boy: can Nick Thomas-Symonds reunite Labour and nation?". New Statesman. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Home | St Edmund Hall". Archived from the original on 25 July 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  8. ^ Stonor, Joe (12 May 2020). "Labour frontbencher taught Trump's Press Secretary politics at Oxford". Cherwell. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  9. ^ Zeffman, Henry (3 May 2020). "Meet Kayleigh McEnany: Trump's new champion in war against media". The Times. Retrieved 13 May 2020 – via The Australian.
  10. ^ Blanchard, Jack (4 May 2020). "POLITICO London Playbook: Do the Wight thing - BoJo's Sunday service - Return of the King". POLITICO. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  11. ^ Beech, Matt; Hickson, Kevin; Plant, Raymond, eds. (2018) [2004]. The Struggle for Labour's Soul: Understanding Labour's Political Thought Since 1945. Routledge Studies in British Politics (2nd ed.). Abingdon: Routledge. p. xiv. ISBN 978-1-138-04737-2. OCLC 1041108901.
  12. ^ Symonds, Nicklaus (2015). Nye : the political life of Aneurin Bevan. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-78076-209-8. OCLC 889522593.
  13. ^ Symonds, Nicklaus (2010). Attlee : a life in politics. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-779-5. OCLC 670430130.
  14. ^ "Maiden speech: Nick Thomas-Symonds". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  15. ^ "Labour names first-time MP as shadow pensions minister". Citywire. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  16. ^ "Nick Thomas-Symonds appointed Shadow Minister for Employment". Torfaen Constituency Labour Party. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  17. ^ "Torfaen MP latest to quit Labour front bench". South Wales Argus. 27 June 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Nick Thomas-Symonds promoted to Shadow Solicitor General – Nick Thomas Symonds MP". Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  19. ^ "Reshuffle 2: The Maintenance of the Malcontents". New Socialist. 8 July 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  20. ^ "Nick Thomas-Symonds MP: Insights into Courts and Tribunals in England and Wales". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  21. ^ "Government need to get a grip of 'appalling' 1.7% rate of rape prosecutions – Labour". 23 May 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  22. ^ "Revealed: Brexit legal advice could sink Theresa May". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  23. ^ "Brexit backstop plan is calculated risk - Geoffrey Cox". BBC News. 3 December 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  24. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 03 Dec 2018". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  25. ^ "'Contempt motion' on publishing of legal advice". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  26. ^ "'Spineless disgrace - let me tell them TRUTH' Geoffrey Cox in OUTSTANDING rant in Commons". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  27. ^ "Labour would stop BPTC 'racket' run by 'profiteers'". 26 November 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  28. ^ Thomas-Symonds, Nick. "Cybersecurity is a challenge we must push up the political agenda". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  29. ^ Thomas-Symonds, Nick. "Our cherished legal principles must not be weakened". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  30. ^ "Register Of All-Party Parliamentary Groups [as at 28 April 2016]". Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  31. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 06 Nov 2015 (pt 0002)". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  32. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 29 January 2016 (pt 0001)". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  33. ^ "MP's bill leads to review of drug 'Bible'". South Wales Argus. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  34. ^ "Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood named Welsh Politician of the Year". ITV News. 8 December 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  35. ^ "Shadow Home Secretary writes to the Home Secretary requesting emergency funding for domestic abuse support services – Nick Thomas Symonds MP". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  36. ^ "Johnson forced to drop NHS surcharge for migrant health workers". 21 May 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  37. ^ "Labour urges PM to show leadership against racism". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  38. ^ "Reading stabbings: Shadow Home Secretary lays flowers for victims". 24 June 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  39. ^ "Labour calls for judge-led review into 'lone-attacker' terror threat following Reading stabbings". 26 June 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  40. ^ "UK government accused of lacking compassion for asylum seekers". 2 September 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  41. ^ "Full text of Nick Thomas-Symonds speech to Labour Connected". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  42. ^ "'Human error' blamed for wiping of thousands of police records". Sky News. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  43. ^ "Fatal flaws in the Government's half-baked hotel quarantine policy show why only a comprehensive system can work". Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  44. ^ "Privy Council appointments: 12 February 2021". Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  45. ^ "Our 10-point plan to keep women safe including new laws and longer jail time". Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  46. ^ "Putting statues before women, the Tories could end up on the wrong side of history". The Guardian. 15 March 2021. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  47. ^ ""We're calling on you to act now": read Stylist's open letter to Priti Patel about ending male violence against women and girls". Stylist. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  48. ^ Rodgers, Sienna (29 November 2021). "Big reshuffle sees Cooper, Streeting, Lammy, Reynolds, Phillipson promoted". LabourList. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  49. ^ "Global Britain's new dilemma: Trade, or human rights?". 31 August 2022.
  50. ^ "UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement - Hansard - UK Parliament".
  51. ^ "Britain's US trade charm offensive at risk amid steel row". 5 December 2021.
  52. ^ "Steel deal means an end to UK tariffs on popular American brands such as Levis and Harley-Davidson". Sky News.
  53. ^ "UK Labour would push for US trade deal". 4 January 2022.
  54. ^ "Liz Truss admits no US trade deal in 'short to medium term'". BBC News. 20 September 2022.
  55. ^ "UK must target Putin's 'Mayfair lifestyle' with luxury goods ban, says Labour". BBC News. 3 March 2022.
  56. ^ "Who are the 39 UK personalities banned from entering Russia?". 2 August 2022.
  57. ^ Turner, Camilla (28 January 2023). "Blame Joe Biden for UK not meeting trade-deals pledge, says Government". The Telegraph.
  58. ^ "The Institute of Export and International Trade".

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Torfaen

Political offices
Preceded by Shadow Home Secretary