Who Is Chuka Umunna, And Why Should You Care?

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Written by Staff

From TheGuardian. Story by

Chuka Umunna is one of the most prominent members of Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet and on first-name terms with senior political figures in the European Union and the U.S. (Miliband is the current opposition leader and leader of the Labour Party. He appointed his first Shadow Cabinet in October 2010.)

Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland who is seen as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton, and Emmanuel Macron, the French finance minister, are natural soulmates of Umunna, who has the poise of an alpha-male politician.

There’s speculation that Umunna could be a future candidate for the leadership of the Labour party, something he dismisses.

Umunna finds himself dogged by questions about his political future after enjoying a meteoric rise through the Labour ranks since entering parliament in 2010 as MP for Streatham. Within months of that election he was appointed as Miliband’s private secretary after supporting him in the leadership contest, before finding himself catapulted a year later into one of the most senior posts in the shadow cabinet as business secretary.

In his time as shadow business secretary, Umunna has been consulting former Prime Minister Tony Blair and British Labour Party politician Peter Mandelson as he reaches out to corporate giants.

Ummuna’s father, Bennett, still has a profound effect on his son, even though he died in a car accident when the future MP was just 13. He talks proudly of his father’s rags-to-riches story after he arrived from Nigeria in Liverpool “with nothing apart from his suitcase” in the mid ’60s.

Umunna says: “Somebody gave him the fare to get to London where he found lodgings with friends and, yes, he washed plates in restaurants, he washed cars, he used to wash limousines. That was great because once he’d finished washing the car he could sit in the back and study for evening school, where he did his business and accountancy qualifications.”

In the ’70s his father met Umunna’s mother, Patricia Milmo, the daughter of the late Anglo-Irish judge Sir Helenus “Buster” Milmo.

Umunna’s family life in Streatham was shattered in 1992 when his father was killed in a car crash after he returned to Nigeria to seek election as governor of Anambra State in the south east of the country where he was a tribal chief.

Umunna raises his eyes as he is reminded how his mixed-race background prompted reports that he could be Britain’s Barack Obama even before his election to parliament. “I think it is illustrative of the fact that we still have some way to go before we have a form of politics that represents modern Britain,” he says wearily.

As the son of a highly successful Nigerian immigrant, Umunna hopes the door will remain open for future enterprising West Africans armed with no more than a suitcase and their brainpower.

Read more at TheGuardian.