Friday, 20 January 2012

Friend for Friday: Chuka Umunna MP

It has been a challenging week for businesses across the country. From Peacocks calling in the administrators, to Chinese investment in British industry; British business is changing as you and I know it. One man who has been leading the calls for change is Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna - who recently called for shareholders to have a bigger say in appointing company boards.

I was lucky enough to talk to Chuka, one of the aspiring stars of the Labour party last year. Here is what he had to say on politics, students and his political career.

Parliamentary Private Secretary to Labour Leader Ed Miliband and recent MP for Streatham, Chuka is fairly new to politics, working his way up through the city and media world. We chatted to him about his life, British society and the Labour leader.

Chuka, before you became elected as an MP for Streatham, you worked your way up the political ladder through writing. Can you elaborate more on your past success?
Well first, I have always grown up in and around Streatham, an area of London. In addition, I have always had an interest in politics. My first job was as a lawyer in the city, however I found that the press either portrayed the inequality of ethnicity in London itself negatively, of not portrayed at all. I decided to write an article about the subject, and sent it to my brother who was amazed at my ‘natural writing talent’. I then sent it off to the Financial Times, who published it, without any editing or changes made. Within a week, letters and emails to the Times were sent in their hundreds, praising my work. It went from there really.

You went on to write regularly for the Financial Times, as well as the Guardian. In fact, you even started and edited your own website; the political TMP magazine (similar format to our Online Magazine, The Alternative)
Yes, I did. It was great, because I could write what I wanted and focus on the topics and issues I wished to focus on. If I have any advice for you in the magazine field, it would be to try and always be imaginative and eager to try new things.

Political commentators and newspapers like the New Statesman and The Independent have in the past dubbed you the ‘British Obama’. How do you feel about being called this?
Well it is certainly flattering, but it is not what I am about. I am all about the people, my constituency: not about the names and labelling. Although I admit, it is a comparison I would not be so arrogant to make myself! (Laughs)

Talking about your constituency, how did you feel to be elected in May as Streatham’s MP - a place you have lived in all of your life?
Words cannot describe how proud I was and still am. Knowing the community so well, and being part of its past and heritage I think helps when being an MP. However, the community itself, the people - they are the best, even if I am biased myself! But honestly, local societies and communities are what make Britain, Britain! In addition, it is what I love in politics.

You were also elected as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Labour Leader Ed Miliband. For some readers who may get confused what the job involves, can you tell us?
Yes, I must admit that the first bit sounds rather confusing but it is simply a secretary to the leader. I organise his diary, events, etc as well as making sure any letters and emails sent from the public are taken care of with responses. I also prepare him for questioning, and for asking questions on Prime Minister's Questions. I guess you would call me the foundation for him; without my role, he would be all over the place!

You also voted for Ed Miliband in the party election - would you say you have a special relationship?
(Laughs) Certainly not a relationship, more of a friendship! We both knew each other before he was elected leader. We are both centred at the same place really, and this is one of the reasons for me nominating him. And I made the right decision. He’s a great guy; enthusiastic and ready to act.

Finally, can you sum up your last 5 and ½ months in cabinet?
‘I love it’!

Interviewed by Kieran Watkins 

Picture Courtesy of

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