Our third seat profile sees Charlotte Henry talk to shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna in his Streatham seat.
Find the first profile in our series here: Battle for Poplar and Limehouse at the edge of the City
Find the second profile here: Lib Dem Bermondsey battler Simon Hughes still going strong
Under Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour’s relationship with business has not always been an easy one. At the heart of an operation to rebuild bridges over the last couple of years has been shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna.
Part of his pitch has been Labour’s pro-European Union position. “The overwhelming majority of businesses want the UK to remain a member of the EU, that is absolutely clear,” Umunna says. “If there’s a Tory-led government, we’ll see that party descend into chaos, instability and uncertainty on this issue.”
Umunna argues that there is heavy irony in John Major’s warning of chaos if Labour is elected, given the former Prime Minister’s strife with his own MPs in the 1990s.
“A lot of the guys who caused all the problems back then are still around now, and they are primed and ready to strike,” he says.
“That party will be completely ungovernable, never mind actually being able to run a government, because it will fall apart over Europe immediately.”
Business wants economic stability, and Umunna could be in charge of one of the government’s major economic departments. Can we trust Labour not to overspend again?
“I don’t believe that we did overspend,” Umunna hits back. “I don’t believe we had the debt and the deficit issues we have because we spend too much on schools, hospitals and investing in people in Streatham and other places.”
While he says, “I didn’t go into politics to tax people,” Umunna thinks that during the next Parliament a 50p top rate of tax will help deal with the debt and the deficit that Labour could inherit “due to George Osborne’s lamentable failure.”
Umunna describes himself as a product of the Streatham community he grew up in, and uses his local experience in his national role.
As an example, we are having a coffee on what he proudly proclaims is the longest high street in Europe, in the heart of his constituency. Consequently, the decline of high streets is something that he wants to tackle if he gets into government.
“When you see the decline of the high street, you don’t just sit on your hands, which is basically what the government has done,” he says, citing the communal significance that high streets have. “They make each and every community unique.”
Umunna takes a similar approach to housing, on which he describes Mayor Boris Johnson’s approach as “criminal”. He adds: “In the private rented sector it is the wild west. It is an utter disgrace some of the conditions some of my constituents have to live in.”
Despite having only being elected to Parliament for the first time in 2010, Umunna has quickly risen to be one of Labour’s big beasts. Could he be in one of government’s top jobs come Friday?
WINNER 2010: CHUKA UMUNNA, LABOUR
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