Emily Thornberry facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Official portrait, 2020
|Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales|
29 November 2021
|Preceded by||The Lord Falconer of Thoroton|
7 October 2011 – 3 December 2014
|Preceded by||The Baroness Scotland of Asthal|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Bach|
|Shadow President of the Board of Trade
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade
6 April 2020 – 29 November 2021
|Preceded by||Barry Gardiner|
|Succeeded by||Nick Thomas-Symonds|
|Shadow First Secretary of State|
14 June 2017 – 5 April 2020
|Preceded by||Angela Eagle (2016)|
|Succeeded by||Angela Rayner|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs|
27 June 2016 – 5 April 2020
|Preceded by||Hilary Benn|
|Succeeded by||Lisa Nandy|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union|
20 July 2016 – 6 October 2016
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Keir Starmer|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Defence|
5 January 2016 – 27 June 2016
|Preceded by||Maria Eagle|
|Succeeded by||Clive Lewis|
|Member of Parliament
for Islington South and Finsbury
6 May 2005
|Preceded by||Chris Smith|
Emily Anne Thornberry
27 July 1960
Guildford, Surrey, England
|Alma mater||University of Kent|
Emily Anne Thornberry (born 27 July 1960) is a British politician who has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington South and Finsbury since 2005. A member of the Labour Party, she has served as Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales since 2021, and previously from 2011 to 2014. She has also served as Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2016 to 2020, Shadow First Secretary of State from 2017 to 2020 and Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade from 2020 to 2021.
The daughter of a teacher and a diplomat, Thornberry was born in Guildford, Surrey, and attended a local secondary modern school. After graduating from the University of Kent in Canterbury, she worked as a human rights lawyer from 1985 to 2005 and joined the Transport and General Workers' Union.
Thornberry was first elected to Parliament in 2005 and served as Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet from 2011 until she resigned in 2014 after sending a tweet mocking a house with England flags. After Jeremy Corbyn won the 2015 Labour Party leadership election, Thornberry was appointed Shadow Minister of State for Employment in September 2015, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence in January 2016 and Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in June 2016. She was a candidate to succeed Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party in the 2020 leadership election but was eliminated from the race after failing to obtain the number of nominations needed.
Thornberry was appointed to Keir Starmer's shadow cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade and Shadow President of the Board of Trade in April 2020. She was appointed Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales in November 2021.
Thornberry was born in Guildford, Surrey on 27 July 1960. Her parents were Sallie Thornberry (née Bone), a teacher, and Cedric Thornberry, at the time teaching international law at the London School of Economics, and later a United Nations Assistant Secretary-General. Due to her father's birth in Belfast she is an Irish citizen and Irish passport holder. When Thornberry was seven, her parents divorced and she had to leave their home with her mother and two brothers. After this, she ate all the free school meals and stole food parcels, and their cats were euthanised to save money. Her mother later became a Labour councillor and mayor (representing Stoke in Guildford from 1983 to 2003), and her father stood as the Labour candidate for Guildford in the 1966 general election.
She failed the eleven-plus exam, so attended a secondary modern school. She left to live with her father when she was fifteen until he left without warning to work for the United Nations when she was seventeen. She worked as a cleaner and a barmaid in London alongside resitting her O-Levels and taking her A-Levels. She went on to study law at the University of Kent in Canterbury, graduating in 1982, and afterwards led the students’ union as an elected full-time officer. She was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn and practised as a barrister specialising in human rights law from 1985 to 2005 under Michael Mansfield at Tooks Chambers.
Thornberry joined the Transport and General Workers' Union in 1985.
Thornberry's constituency falls within the London Borough of Islington, one of the most deprived areas of the country with disproportionately high house prices and private sector rents. She has supported measures by Islington Council to free up under-occupied homes by supporting tenants to downsize and to stop foreign investors from buying new homes and leaving them empty. She has also called for a greater degree of control over private sector rents and more support for social house-building. Thornberry has frequently campaigned for a greater commitment to affordable and social housing. She was criticised when the local Islington Tribune newspaper discovered that her husband had bought a former social house which was being rented out to her aides. Thornberry said the purchase was "not about property speculation".
In 2015 Thornberry clashed with Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, over the proposed redevelopments of the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre, the sorting office run by the Royal Mail, and the Clerkenwell Fire Station, both in her constituency. Camden and Islington councils sought to require a high proportion of the resulting new homes to be made available for social rent, but Johnson overturned this and allowed homes designated as "affordable" to charge rents of up to 80 percent of market rates. Thornberry criticised Johnson, describing his definition of affordability as "nonsense", and called for at least 50% of homes in the new developments to be made available for social rent.
Statue of Emily Davison
In 2013, the 100th anniversary of the death of the suffragette Emily Davison, Thornberry called for a statue commemorating Davison in Parliament. She arranged a public meeting to discuss options for a memorial, attended by around 800 people, and settled on the idea of a statue as an appropriate memorial, pointing out that there were very few statues of female politicians and activists in Parliament.
In March 2015, Thornberry launched a campaign for a new Equal Pay Act. She said that, 45 years after the original Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970, women still earned 19% less than men on average.
Thornberry has lived in Islington since the early 1990s. In July 1991 she married Christopher Nugee, of Wilberforce Chambers, in Tower Hamlets, and they have two sons and a daughter. Nugee later became Queen's Counsel, then a High Court Judge, when he was knighted, at which point Thornberry became entitled to be styled Lady Nugee, but does not use the title. Nugee later became a Lord Justice of Appeal. Since 1993 they have lived on Richmond Crescent, Barnsbury, where Tony Blair also lived until the 1997 general election, moving in on the same day as the Blairs. Thornberry also part-owns properties in Guildford and South London; her property portfolio "is believed to be worth £4.6 million."
In April 2005, it was reported that Thornberry and Nugee had sent their son to the partially selective Dame Alice Owen's state school 14 miles (23 km) from their home and outside her constituency. The school was formerly based in Islington and reserved a quota of 10% of its places for Islington pupils. The Labour Party opposes selection and Thornberry was criticised over the matter as a result. Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools, said: "I celebrate her good sense as a parent and deplore her hypocrisy as a politician. When will those who espouse the virtues of comprehensive education apply the logic of their political message to their children?" Later, Thornberry's daughter attended the same school.