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Could Chuka Umunna be our next prime minister?


CHUKA UMUNNA struck a chord with the public from the very moment he stepped up to the political podium.

When the Streatham MP and shadow secretary of state for Business, Innovations and Skills was still fresh on the scene, Voice columnist and BBC broadcaster Dotun Adebayo described Umunna as the “real deal”, declaring: “Ladies and gentlemen, here is the next leader of the Labour party.”

The eloquent and charismatic London-born lawyer, who made his mark in parliament after tackling big issues such as strategies for the banking industry, tax avoidance and diversity on public boards, has again and again been touted as a future leader.

Earlier this month, fresh speculation emerged that he could be the next prime minister after he topped a Mail on Sunday poll as “a winner”, beating Ed Miliband who has been fighting for his political survival as Labour leader, following calls from a small faction of the party for his resignation as leader. It is no surprise then that Umunna was voted – alongside sports minister Helen Grant – the third most powerful black person in Britain.

Born to a Nigerian dad and Irish mother, the 36-year-old, who is the grandson of prominent High Court Judge Sir Helenus Milmo – known for serving at the trials of Nazi war criminals - studied law at Nottingham and worked as an employment solicitor before launching his political career in 2010. He has always hotly denied that he has designs on Miliband’s job.

Once, describing the speculations as “absurd”, he told Sky News: “I've been a member of Parliament for three years. I find all this chit-chat rather absurd. At the end of the day I think you've got to keep yourself grounded, you have to remember why you got into politics and that is to change things, to change people's lives. It's not about the soap opera, who's up, who's down, who's this or that.” He added: “It's actually, what is the change that you want to deliver and that's where I am focused on.”

But Simon Woolley, director and co-founder of Operation Black Vote (OBV), who also features on the Powerlist, said Britain is ready for a black, Asian or mixed-race prime minister. And current PM David Cameron seems to agree. He recently revealed, while at an Asian leadership awards, that he was keen to see an Asian at the leadership helms.

He said: “Let us think big about what Britons of all backgrounds can achieve. When I hear ‘sir', 'your honour' or ‘right honourable', I want them to be followed by a British Asian name… One day I want to hear that title ‘Prime Minister' followed by a British Asian name." But only 25 per cent of people in a Voice Online poll thought Umunna has the smarts to help Labour win the next general election, while 33 per cent felt he needs more experience before he could be up for the top job. Seventeen per cent said he is just a pretty face.

Woolley is calling on the community to start rallying around black politicians. Urging Ummuna and other politicians to “start thinking seriously about the very highest office”, he said: “We’ve got to begin this chorus that our institutions, right across the board, are ready to embrace our talented black leaders. I do believe that in the very, very near future, we will see the emergence of black leaders in all the political parties. In particular the prospective black leaders that make a concerted effort to better connect with black communities as well as, of course, wider communities."

He added: “The time is ripe and ready for a black leader, both for our country and our capital city.”

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