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Shadow Boxing


Chuka Umunna is the most promising young MP in the Commons. But politics is tough, so does he pack a knockout punch? Michael Eboda spars with him to find out


I


’m experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu. Seventeen years ago, I interviewed a young mixed-race guy who impressed the hell out of me with his clarity of thought,


general intelligence and the x-factor that is star quality. I predicted at the time that he would turn out to be a world champion, his name was Lewis Hamilton, and I’m equally confident that the young, mixed-race guy I’m sitting in front of today who is impressing the hell out of me and has equal amounts of star quality, Chuka Umunna, will be a superstar of British politics. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.


Does he even have aspirations to lead the Labour Party into Government and is Britain ready for a black Prime Minister? “I think it will be incredibly arrogant of me


to say now that at some point in the future I am best placed to lead our country and to make


Umunna has been meteoric: he has only just got into parliament and he’s already got the biggest job in the shadow cabinet. He’s the shadow secretary of state for business innovation and skills, although, as he explains, “people shorthand it to shadow business secretary”. It means he is responsible for business


policy, further education, higher education, company law, competition policy, the shareholder executive, issues around corporate governance, the postal services and international trade.… and then there’s “the whole consumer affairs piece; employment and industrial relations, science and innovation and research”. Luckily, he has a team of 10 junior ministers


who work for him. “I lead in setting our overall strategic goals and implementing [things], and as different


BLACKBRITISHPRIMEMINISTER THANABLACK U.S. PRESIDENT.


IALWAYS THOUGHT THATITWASMUCH MORE LIKELY THAT THEREWOULDBEA


life and death decisions,” he says, from across the table in a meeting room at his busy office at Portcullis House. “I don’t know what the future will hold, but I couldn’t say that right now. “I always thought that it was much more


likely that there would be a black British Prime Minister than a black US President because in the US you are the head of state and you are the head of government, whereas you don’t have the symbolic role of being head of state in the UK.” Cue the obligatory rider: “As far as my own


position is concerned, I just feel blessed to be a member of parliament and it would be an amazing privilege to be the business secretary in government.” However you look at it, the rise of Chuka


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policy areas rise up and down in prominence, then I will sweep in and lead in that area…” Chuka got into politics (he used to be a


solicitor) because he has always been passionate about the subject, reading the broadsheets at the tender age of eight – despite the protestations of his mother who, he says, “struggled to get me to read fiction and books”. “I happily would watch the news; I was just


fascinated by the world. People would talk about inflation – what’s inflation? What’s an MP? – I just wanted to know all that stuff.” Although Chuka claims that he got into


politics because he was in the proverbial “right place at the right time”, you wonder whether there wasn’t a touch more method in the


Interview


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