The British Obama? No, Labour high-flyer Chuka's the black Blair
This story is an amazing one,this is "the real Naija dream" for every Nigeria youth. (this is an excerpt from daily mail journal, London)
A British Labour Party politician and employment lawyer who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Streatham since 2010. On 7 October 2011, after fewer than eighteen months in Parliament, he was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Business Secretary by the Labour Leader Ed Miliband. “A One Nation Labour" and has written articles promoting the Blue Labour trend.
It is the perfect would-be Tory leader’s CV: deputy head boy at one of Britain’s oldest public schools, fan of Michael Heseltine, wears Savile Row suits and is the grandson of a High Court judge. He is also a proud member of the Church of England. In addition, he would not baulk at having his own children privately educated.
He flaunted his non-partisan stance by starting our interview in his Commons study talking about his latest illustrious political confidant, Tory grandee Lord Heseltine. Budding statesman Umunna visited Hezza last week at his office at the Department of Business, where he advises the Government on trade, to learn at his knee.
‘I’m a big fan,’ said Umunna, with an unassuming air of confidence way beyond his 33 years. Tony Blair – or ‘Tony’, as Umunna referred to him – and Peter Mandelson are among other senior political figures who have given audiences to Chuka.
‘I’ve got the hunger and energy and am younger than these guys, but I want to learn from them. I’m a leech like that. I feel blessed to be able to talk to them. Bill Clinton’s book says you never stop learning.’
Revealingly, Umunna, who has been called ‘the British Obama,’ has not been to see Gordon Brown for advice.
Ed Miliband talent- spotted him in his 20s, helped him to become an MP and made him his Parliamentary Private Secretary. Umunna duly backed Ed, and not his Blairite brother David, in the Labour leadership contest.
Just 18 months after he became an MP, Miliband made Umunna Shadow Business Secretary. It was seen as fast-forwarding his career in the hope that, if Ed Miliband loses the next Election, Umunna – and not the Labour leader’s bitter rival, Ed Balls, or Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper – will step into his shoes.
However, super-cool, relaxed and self-styled ‘modern Briton’ Umunna would appear to have much more in common with Blair and a new, improved New Labour than geeky Ed Miliband’s half-hearted attempt to revive Old Labour.
Asked why he joined Labour, and not the Tories or Lib Dems, Umunna replied: ‘Achieving our potential as individuals is only possible in a strong society, which gives each of us a platform to succeed. This is why I am Labour. I want a fairer, more equal, democratic and sustainable world.
‘We stand and fall together as a community and a country. Last year’s riots demonstrated this. I was politicised growing up in Lambeth in South London in the Eighties and early Nineties – which was on the receiving end of the harsh side of Thatcherism and I was deeply affected by my visits to my father’s native Nigeria, where I saw grinding poverty.’
Umunna’s father Bennett Umunna father originally from Awka-Eastern Nigeria. He is of the Igbo ethnic group arrived in Liverpool by boat, penniless, and became a successful entrepreneur and a director of Crystal Palace FC. His Irish lawyer mother, Patricia, is the daughter of the late Sir Helenus Milmo, a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials.
Umunna’s father was killed in a car crash in Nigeria, reportedly murdered by political enemies for his anti-corruption stance. Umunna was 13 years old. Despite being raised in ethnically diverse South London, where he is MP for Streatham, Umunna freely admits to a middle-class upbringing. He says: ‘It’s true, I haven’t wanted for food. But we had our ups and downs.
My father arrived here with nothink,’ he says, as his polished private-school tone lapses and he slips into Estuary English. He was ‘driven’ by his dad. ‘He drilled it into me that working hard to get good school reports and decent GCSEs and A-levels is the passport to the future – you need hard graft.
‘When I visit primary schools, I say to kids, “How many of you have got a PlayStation and Sky TV?” All their hands go up. I say,
“PlayStation and Sky are not going to get you where you want to be.”
His parents forced him to open his school report with them at home. ‘I wasn’t, like, trembling, but it was a serious event. Everyone else would open their report at school, but I wasn’t allowed to. I had to go home and do it with my parents.’
'Hard graft was driven into me by my father'
Born 17 October 1978, Umunna was educated at Hitherfield Primary School in Streatham, South London, When he struggled at his local voluntary aided Christ Church Primary School in Brixton, his mother and father sent him to St Dunstan’s College in South London, founded in the 15th Century, where fees today are up to £14,000 a year. ‘It had a massive impact on me and my politics,’ he says. And at the independent secondary school St Dunstan's College in Catford. was a child he was a chorister at Southwark Cathedral, and participated in singing the theme tune of the British comedy series Mr. Bean. He graduated LLB in English and French Law at the University of Manchester and then studied for one term at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, before going on to study at Nottingham Law School for a Master of Arts degree.
Would he send his children to a private school if they were doing badly at a State school? ‘I wouldn’t rule it out. I hope to get married and have children. What I’d like is for us to make private schools redundant.’
All well and good, but few Labour MPs would dare say they would send their child to a private schools. Umunna weighed his words, but did not flinch: ‘I didn’t say that, but I wouldn’t rule it out.’
It is not an answer either Ed Miliband or Ed Balls would give. But Tony Blair would be proud of him.
Umunna is rumoured to have dated Luciana Berger, a friend of Euan Blair, but refused to talk about his love life. ‘I’m not going there.’
He thinks people are ‘confused’ by his Nigerian-Irish-British roots. ‘They say, “Are you Brazilian, Cuban? What are you?” I’m a product of modern Britain.’ Umunna also cleared up confusion over how to say his name. The ‘uka’ in Chuka (meaning ‘God is greatest’) is pronounced as in ‘looker,’ not ‘pukkah’. Similarly, Umunna has short vowels, and is not ‘oomoona’.
Despite his silky-smooth image, he is not averse to using his forensic legal skills to launch lethal ad hominem attacks. He ruthlessly filleted businessman Lord Sugar and former Barclays boss Bob Diamond at Commons committees.
But he admitted to going over the top when he goaded George Osborne for knowing nothing about life on the dole. ‘I felt really angry and, like, you shouldn’t get angry. I was emotional about it.’ When the boot is on the other foot, Umunna is defensive. He point-blank denied his family home had been owned by a Jersey-based offshore trust.
Similarly, he coyly played down questions about his ‘cool dude’ image, saying he got his suits from ‘the sister of a Labour organiser’ in his Streatham constituency.
Sceptical that his immaculate suit came from something he made sound like a workers’ co-operative, I dragged the name of the tailor out of him: Alexandra Wood. Did he pay more or less than £500 for it? ‘Less,’ he scoffed.
In fact Alexandra Wood is on London’s Savile Row. Glamorous Umunna models their suits on their website with a gushing tribute: ‘my suit is a true pleasure to wear, Alexandra created it to my exact specification: smart, fashionable and comfortable. I would take great pleasure in recommending her to anyone. I certainly intend on placing more orders in the near future.’
When The Mail on Sunday called the company, a member of staff said its suits range in price from £595 to £1,000.
'A few Labour MPs saw me as an upstart'
Back in his office, when I teased Umunna that he was ‘all slick suits and slicked-back hair’, he guffawed: ‘What slicked-back hair? There isn’t any. I shave it.’
He mused, unprompted: ‘Would I have a big Afro if I didn’t? Probably.’
Had he ever fancied an Afro? ‘No, because it’s a mission to keep it from getting knotted.’ A mission? Street slang for a hassle. ‘You see kids walking round with Afro combs in their hair. It’s easier to cut it.’
Umunna admitted that although he has tried to avoid stepping on their toes, some fellow Labour MPs are jealous of him: ‘A few thought, “Who does this upstart think he is?” I didn’t want to piss people off.’ But parliamentary slings and arrows are water off a duck’s back when your dad was probably the victim of a real political assassination.
Umunna experimented with drugs and nearly became a ‘garage music’ DJ. He misses ‘playing out’ – going clubbing. ‘I bumped into an old girlfriend who said, “When was last time you played out?” I haven’t done it for three years, it’s terrible!’
He is too busy hanging out with Hezza, Tony and Mandy.