Politician & Activist

Emily Thornberry

Emily Anne Thornberry is a British politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Islington South and Finsbury since 2005.

A member of the Labour Party, she served in the Shadow Cabinet of Jeremy Corbyn as Shadow First Secretary of State from 2017 to 2020 and Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2016 to 2020.

  • Full name: Emily Anne Thornberry
  • Profession: British politician
  • Born: 27 July 1960 (age 59 years), Guildford
  • Spouse: Christopher Nugee (m. 1991)
  • Education: University of Kent
  • Office: Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs since 2016
  • Party: Labour Party
  • Parents: Cedric Thornberry, Sallie Thornberry
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About Emily Thornberry

Thornberry was born on 27 July 1960 in Guildford, Surrey, England. Her parents were Sallie Thornberry, a teacher, and Cedric Thornberry, at the time teaching international law at the London School of Economics, and later a United Nations Assistant Secretary-General.

When Thornberry was seven, her parents divorced and she had to leave their home with her mother and two brothers. After this, she relied on free school meals and food parcels, and their cats were euthanised to save money.

Her mother later became a Labour councillor and mayor, and her father stood as the Labour candidate for Guildford in the 1966 general election.

She failed the eleven-plus exam, so attended a secondary modern school. She left to live with her father when she was fifteen until he left without warning to work for the United Nations when she was seventeen.

She worked as a cleaner and a barmaid in London alongside resitting her O-Levels and taking her A-Levels.

She went on to study law at the University of Kent in Canterbury, graduating in 1982. She was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn and practised as a barrister specialising in human rights law from 1985 to 2005 under Michael Mansfield at Tooks Chambers.

Thornberry joined the Transport and General Workers’ Union in 1985.


Thornberry practised as a barrister from 1985 to 2005. She was first elected to Parliament in 2005, and served as Shadow Attorney General in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet from 2011 until she resigned in 2014 after sending a tweet that was described as “snobby”.

After Jeremy Corbyn won the 2015 leadership election, Thornberry was appointed shadow employment minister.

In January 2016, she was appointed Shadow Defence Secretary, and in June 2016 she was appointed Shadow Foreign Secretary.

She was a candidate to succeed Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party in the 2020 leadership election. She was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet of Keir Starmer as Shadow International Trade Secretary in April 2020, succeeding Barry Gardiner.