Barely a week after his re-election as a member of the British parliament, Nigerian-born Chuka Umunna has decided to take his political clout to the highest level in the United Kingdom.
Umunna formally declared his intention on Tuesday to become the next Labour Party leader, a position that could land him on 10 Downing Street as Britain’s Prime Minister, if he defeats four other aspirants for the post and Labour wins the general election in 2020.
The other aspirants are Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Tristram Hunt.
Labour is expected to set out the timetable for the leadership election on Wednesday (today).
The 36-year-old Umunna, who is currently Labour’s shadow business secretary, is popularly referred to in the UK as Chuka Chucks and Britain’s Barack Obama.
The Nigerian-born Briton, in a video released on Facebook, said he could lead the party, which suffered a crunching defeat by the Conservative Party, back to power within five years.
He said, ‘‘I’m pleased today(Tuesday) to be announcing that I will be standing for the leadership of the party.
‘‘I think we can be winning in seats like Swindon. North, South, East and West. We can absolutely do it as a party.
‘‘Some have suggested in the last few days that this is somehow now a 10- year project to get the Labour Party back into office. I don’t think we can have any truck with that at all.
‘‘I think the Labour Party can do it in five years. I want to lead that effort as part of a really big Labour team, getting Labour back into office, building a fairer, more equal society that’s why we all joined the party in the first place.’’
Umunna had on Sunday said that during the general election, Labour concentrated its policies too much on the poorest and the richest, ignoring the majority of people in-between.
He had also said in an opinion article published by the Observer newspaper, that the Labour Party should be “on the side of those who are doing well” and that no one should be “too rich or poor” to be a member.
The Independent on Sunday reported late last year that Umunna had the private backing of former Prime Minister Tony Blair to be the party’s next leader.
He also told the British Broadcasting Corporation during a recent interview that Labour had to become the party of “aspiration” again and that to persuade people, it should back the “wealth creators” and those who “make the effort.”
The MP said, “I think Ed(Milliband) was too hard on himself by saying that all the responsibility for the general election rested with him. I don’t think it did. I think it was a collective failure on the front team, so to speak.”
Umunna advised that Labour needed to address the aspirations of the people “all the way up the income chain,” adding, “I think at times we did not get that across strong enough.”
“With the Labour Party, the clue is in the name; we are about good, fulfilling work for those who put in the effort.
“But of course, you can’t be pro-jobs and pro that work unless you’re backing the wealth creators that create those jobs. Although we had a policy agenda that was, of course, going to help the wealth creators, sometimes people didn’t get that impression.”
The Nigerian-born Briton has had a speedy rise in politics since being elected to Parliament five years ago at the age of 31.
The suave-looking Umunna was promoted to shadow business secretary barely two years after winning his Commons seat – and quickly became one of Labour’s most high-profile figures.
Before entering Parliament, he studied Law at Manchester and on graduation got a job at the top city law firm, Herbert Smith.
Umunna was born in London in 1978 to a Nigerian businessman, Benneth, and a wealthy British mother whose father was a high court judge.
His father moved to Britain to set up a successful import-export business – eventually earning enough to buy the family’s luxury holiday home in Ibiza.
Bennett Umunna, who was at a time the financier of Rangers International Football Club, returned to Nigeria to embark on a political career, as an anti-corruption crusader, but died in a road accident in 1992.
A society journal, Debrett’s, describes Umunna as a protege of Peter Mandelson, who is ‘‘always impeccably groomed (and) exudes an air of effortless success.’’