Nigerians can no longer be dismissed in British politics. Four British Nigerians are now MPs. But here is a much bigger headline query: Will the Queen of England and her British subjects ever allow a black man become Prime Minister in Britain? That is the real question as the profile of Chuka Umunna, MP, continues to soar in British politics.
Tony Blair is backing British-Nigerian Umunna to be the next Labour leader, especially now that Ed Miliband failed to secure victory for Labour in the just concluded British elections in which David Cameron secured resounding victory as re-elected Prime Minister. And so did Umunna as Member of Parliament.
Chuka Harrison Umunna, who served Streatham as Member of Parliament since 2010 and as Shadow Business Secretary since 2011, won 53 % votes in Streatham with a total of 26,474 votes. He beat Kim Caddy of the Conservative Party (12,540 votes – 25%), Amna Ahmad of Liberal Democrats (4,491 votes – 9%) and Jonathan Bartley of Green Party (4,421 – 9%).
Labour leader, Ed Miliband, resigned Friday May 8, 2015 because he wanted leaders of the party to freely debate who should succeed him. But will Labour Party stalwarts allow 36-year-old Umunna lead them – because that also would give him a clear shot at becoming the next and first black Prime Minister in Britain?
Umunna is frequently labelled the “British Obama” – most recently by Le Monde in a glowing profile earlier this year. But when asked in an interview for The Independent on Sunday in September whether he wanted to be leader of the party, Umunna said he just wanted to serve in Ed Miliband’s cabinet. He had hoped that his party would win the elections.
The MP for Streatham has repeatedly refused to set out his leadership ambitions and is actively loyal to the party. Umunna speaks regularly to Blair and other New Labour veterans, including Lord Mandelson, Tessa Jowell and Lord Adonis. Blair sees Umunna as a “natural heir” to his New Labour legacy, said a friend. Since being elevated to the Shadow Cabinet, Umunna has stuck to his business brief, but in recent weeks, he has been more outspoken on immigration. His strident defence of the benefits of immigration to the UK has drawn further admiration from Blair who is in total agreement.
Writing in The New York Times last week, Blair took a thinly veiled swipe at Miliband, saying that politicians needed to have jobs in the “real world” before Parliament. Miliband’s former job was as a special adviser to Gordon Brown, while Umunna was in law before being elected in 2010.
A friend of Umunna says: “Chuka was one of the first MPs to back Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign in 2010 and is fully focused on Labour winning. His feet are firmly on the ground and he doesn’t get distracted by stories like this. He has met Tony Blair before, but so have many LabourMPs.”
Some bookies and pundits have declared Andy Burnham, a 45-year-old Roman Catholic politician the favourite to takeover from Miliband. But a 2014 Survation poll, which showed video footage of possible Labour leadership candidates to voters, put Umunna significantly ahead of his potential rivals, including Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham. The changes to Labour leadership rules has weakened the power of the union vote, making it easier for a Blairite candidate like Umunna to seize the Labour crown.
WHO IS CHUKA UMUNNA?
Umunna is a breath of fresh air. The better he does at his job as a re-elected MP, the better the Nigerian image abroad. Even if Andy Burnham succeeds Miliband as Labour leader, Umunna can no longer be ignored within the party or outside it. He was born and raised in Streatham by his parents, Bennett and Patricia Umunna.
Umunna was elected as Member of Parliament for Streatham in May 2010, becoming the first MP for the constituency to have grown up in the area. He was selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the seat in March 2008 by the Streatham Labour Party after Keith Hill MP, who first won the seat for Labour in 1992, announced his retirement at the next general election.
Born in October 1978, Chuka studied Law at the University of Manchester and the University of Burgundy, followed by Nottingham Law School. An employment law solicitor by profession, prior to his election Chuka worked at a law firm primarily acting for employees but also employers, having trained as a solicitor at a City law firm.
He is a patron of Latimer Creative Media, a social enterprise which trains young people in digital media and a supporter of Cassandra Learning Centre, a charity raising awareness and working to stop domestic violence. In June 2010, he was elected by his parliamentary colleagues to serve on the Treasury Select Committee and in October 2010 was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party.
In May 2011, Chuka was appointed by Ed Miliband as Shadow Minister for Small Business and Enterprise in Labour’s Shadow Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) team.. In this role, he led on small business issues, business support and access to finance, corporate governance, deregulation and economic growth.
In October 2011, Chuka was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. In this role, Umunna leads the Opposition Shadow Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) team, leading for the opposition on a wide range of issues including business, enterprise, science and universities.
Ummuna’s recent comment in The Guardian of UK: “So as painful as Thursday’s result is, the direction we need to take to rebuild is clear. We must stop looking to the past and focus on ensuring everyone has a stake in the future. Our vision as a party must start with the aspirations of voters: to get on and up in the world, to see their children and grandchildren do better than they did, to get that better job, to move from renting to owning, to take the family on holiday, to move from that flat to that house with a garden.
“That means offering competence, optimism not fatalism, an end to machine politics, an economic credo that is both pro-worker and pro-business and, most of all, a politics that starts with what unites us as a country rather than what divides us. Only then will we be able to build the fairer, more equal, democratic and sustainable society that led us to join our party in the first place. Our defeat was on the scale of 1992, but our revival can be on the scale of 1997, and just as rapid if we do what needs to be done. Labour is down, but not out. We must – and will – recover, and win again.”
Even if Chuka Umunna, 36, never becomes Labour leader or British Prime Minister, he is already a Nigerian leader of note in British politics and HAMILTONSTYLE believes that his kith and kin back in Nigeria will be praying and supporting his success as their own.
Sources: House of Commons Library | Independent.co.uk | TheGuardian.co.uk | Chuka.org.uk