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Politician & Activist

Chuka Umunna

Chuka Harrison Umunna is a British Liberal Democrat politician and former Member of Parliament for Streatham from 2010 until 2019.

A former member of the Labour Party, he was part of the Opposition Shadow Cabinet from 2011 to 2015.

He left Labour in February 2019, when he resigned to form The Independent Group, later Change UK, along with six other MPs.

Later in 2019, he left Change UK and, after a short time as an independent MP, joined the Liberal Democrats. In the 2019 general election, he was unsuccessful in being re-elected as an MP and left the House of Commons.

  • Full name: Chuka Harrison Umunna
  • Profession: British politician
  • Born: 17 October 1978 (age 41 years), Lambeth, London
  • Nationality: British
  • Spouse: Alice Sullivan (m. 2016)
  • Party: Liberal Democrats
  • Education: Nottingham Trent University (2002)
  • Parents: Bennett Umunna, Patricia Umunna
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About Chuka Umunna

Umunna was born 17 October 1978 in London, England. His father, Bennett, of the Nigerian Igbo ethnic group and owner of an import-export business, died in a road accident in Nigeria in 1992.

Umunna’s mother, Patricia Milmo, a solicitor, is of English-Irish background. Umunna’s maternal grandparents were Joan Frances (Morley) and Sir Helenus Milmo QC, a High Court judge.

Umunna was educated at Hitherfield Primary School in Streatham, South 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 as a result had moved him to the boys’ independent senior school St Dunstan’s College, in Catford in south-east London, where he played the cello.

During this period he was also a chorister at Southwark Cathedral. 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 Trent.

After university, in 2005, Umunna began work as a solicitor for the City of London firm Herbert Smith. In 2006 he joined Rochman Landau (now Ashfords LLP), specialising in employment law.

From 2006, he 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 Times, Tribune, The Voice, The Guardian and the New Statesman, and began to appear on various radio and television programmes as a commentator.

He founded and edited the online political magazine, The Multicultural Politic. In 2007, he campaigned in support of Jon Cruddas’ unsuccessful bid to become Labour deputy leader.

Career

Umunna was educated at St Dunstan’s College in Catford in the London Borough of Lewisham, before studying at the University of Manchester and Nottingham Trent University.

He worked as a solicitor in the City of London, first for Herbert Smith and then Rochman Landau, while writing articles for the Compass think tank.

He joined Labour in 1997 when the party styled itself as “New Labour”.

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Umunna was selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Streatham in 2008, and was elected MP in the 2010 general election.

When in parliament, he aligned with the party’s “Blue Labour” trend, which rejects neoliberal economics.

He sat on the Treasury Select Committee until 2011, when he joined Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

He was re-elected in the 2015 and 2017 general elections. After Miliband’s resignation, Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015; Umunna was critical of the party leadership and resigned from the Shadow Cabinet to sit as a backbencher.

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A supporter of the unsuccessful campaign to retain UK membership of the European Union in the 2016 referendum, Ummuna campaigned for a referendum on the final deal with the EU.

In February 2019, he resigned from Labour and joined The Independent Group, later Change UK. He was its group spokesperson but left in June 2019 to sit as an independent MP following “disappointing” European Parliament election results showing the party had “failed to get a single MEP elected”.

One week later, Umunna joined the Liberal Democrats and was appointed their Treasury and Business Spokesperson by leader Vince Cable.

In August 2019, he was appointed Foreign Affairs, International Development and International Trade Spokesperson by new leader Jo Swinson.

He stood as the candidate for Cities of London and Westminster in the 2019 general election, and lost to Nickie Aiken for the Conservatives.