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British-Nigerian, Chuka Ummuna, in running as new Labour Leader
Chuka Umunna: eyeing Labour's top job

British-Nigerian, Chuka Ummuna, in running as new Labour Leader

British of Nigerian heritage and two-time MP for Streatham, Chuka Umunna has been mentioned among the top candidates to take over from Ed Miliband as Leader of the Labour Party in Britain.

Fondly called the British Obama, Umunna, a close ally of the fallen Miliband and Shadow Business Secretary if he succeeds, will make history as the very first black person to lead a major party in Britain.

The 36 year-old, who has won acclaim for his cerebral comments and penchant for bringing up important matters for national discuss has been mentioned by very senior labour bigwigs-and there are strong indications that he may put his hat in the ring for the top but tough job.

One of the greatest problems that may count against Umunna however, maybe his relatively young age. Some sceptics say he is too young for such a high-profile position, pointing to the wobble and fumble of Ed Miliband as example.  They feel Labour who are still licking the wounds of a crushing general elections defeat (their worst in 30 years) may not want to hand over their party to another inexperienced driver!

Chuka Umunna’s father Bennett, of the Nigerian Igbo ethnic group, died in a road accident in Nigeria in 1992. His mother, Patricia, is a solicitor and daughter of Sir Helenus Milmo QC, the Anglo-Irish High Court judge.

Umunna was educated at Hitherfield Primary School in StreathamSouth London, and the Christ Church Primary School in Brixton Hill. He says his parents felt that the local state school had “given up on him” and so moved him to the boys’ independent senior school St Dunstan’s College, in Catford in Southeast London, where he played the cello, and became Deputy Head Boy. During this period he was also a chorister at Southwark Cathedral.

He says that he “wouldn’t rule out” sending his own (future) children to a private school if they were doing badly at a State school.He was awarded an upper second class LLB in English and French Law from the University of Manchester; after graduating he studied for one term at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, before studying for an MA at Nottingham Law School. He has said that his politics and moral values come from Christianity, but that he is “not majorly religious

After university, in 2002, he began work as a Solicitor for the City of London firm, Herbert Smith. In 2006 he joined Rochman Landau, specialising in Employment Law. From 2006 onwards, Umunna began to write and provide commentary on the Labour Party, as well as broader social and economic issues, usually in his capacity as a Member of the Management Committee of the Labour-aligned Compass pressure group.

He also wrote articles for the Financial TimesTribuneThe VoiceThe Guardian and the New Statesman, and began to appear on various radio and television programmes as a commentator.[12][13] He founded and edited the online political magazine, The Multicultural Politic. In 2007, he campaigned for John Cruddas‘ unsuccessful bid to become Labour Deputy Leader.

In March 2008, Umunna was adopted as the Labour Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Streatham. At the 2010 general election, he was elected Member of Parliament for Streatham with a 3,259 majority;[16] he gave his maiden speech on 2 June 2010.[17] He took a particular interest in economic policy and reform of the City.

Umunna has described himself as being “One Nation Labour” and has written articles promoting the “Blue Labour” trend.  Umunna has argued that the coalition government should revise its programme of fiscal consolidation, take a tougher stance with the British banking industry and take action to transform the credit ratings agency market. Umunna was one of 73 Labour MPs to nominate Ed Miliband in the 2010 Labour leadership election to find a successor to Gordon Brown.[23]

In early April 2013, Umunna’s law firm was linked to favourable updates made on his Wikipedia page in 2007, which included a reference to him being tipped as the “British Barack Obama”. In the same month, Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris criticised Umunna for comments he had made in his mid 20s about the West End of London. Heaton-Harris said the 2006 comments, describing people visiting nightclubs in the West End as “trash” and “c-list wannabes”, showed a “lack of respect for the public”; Umunna stated that the comments were meant to have been “light-hearted in tone and context” but appreciated that “the choice of words used were not appropriate” and apologised for any offence.[26] The Mirror ran a piece indicating that Umunna “had been targeted” and that the Conservative Party was implicated after a “leaked email” from their HQ showed that “businessmen had been lobbied” to criticise Umunna over his West End comments.

Umunna was accused of hypocrisy for accepting a £20,000 gift from a gambling executive despite campaigning against the spread of betting shops in his constituency and promising new powers to limit them.

In June 2010, he was elected as a member of the Treasury Select Committee.[29] In January 2011, Umunna questioned the Chief Executive of BarclaysBob Diamond, in relation to alleged tax avoidance activities by the bank during which he disclosed that the bank used over 300 subsidiary companies in offshore jurisdictions. In response to a question from Umunna, Diamond admitted in February 2011 that Barclays had paid £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009, despite making £11.6bn in profit. He held this position until his appointment to Shadow Minister for Small Business and Enterprise.

In October 2010, following Miliband’s election as party leader, Umunna was appointed to serve as his Parliamentary Private Secretary and, in May 2011, he was appointed to the position of Shadow Minister for Small Business and Enterprise until his promotion to the Shadow Cabinet.

Umunna was promoted as Shadow Business Secretary on 7 October 2011, replacing John Denham, who announced his retirement from front-bench politics. Following his appointment, Umunna re-affirmed Labour’s commitment to introducing a graduate tax in place of university tuition fees if it wins the election of May 2015. In January 2012, Umunna joined Ed Miliband and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves in calling on PM David Cameron to block a £1.6m bonus for Stephen Hester, the chief executive officer of the publicly-owned Royal Bank of Scotland Group During 2013, Umunna led claims that the Government’s valuation of the Royal Mail during its privatisation had effectively “shortchanged” the taxpayer, a view supported by the significant rise in the share price following the sale and the subsequent summoning of bankers to a parliamentary investigation.

In early May 2014, Umunna raised concerns in Parliament and public over the proposed takeover of AstraZeneca, by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, on the grounds of ensuring British jobs and interests.

Despite assurances from Pfizer, Umunna went on to publicly denounce the proposed takeover proclaiming that Pfizer’s assurances were “not worth the paper they were written on”The takeover bid eventually fell through in late May 2014 after the Astra Zeneca board rejected Pfizer’s final offer.

As Shadow Business Secretary, he consistently put veteran Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, on his toes because of his well-researched interventions on economic issues.

 

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