Chuka ‘no’ shocka, Sir Keir declines – only Lamb remains as lawyer party leader candidate

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By Judge John Hack on

But is former East Anglia employment partner actually being led to electoral slaughter?


It has been a rollercoaster few days for lawyer political party leader hopefuls.

First, the former Herbert Smith (as was) man and the darling of Streatham in south London, Chuka Umunna, twigged that if you put yourself forward to lead Labour, the press will take an interest in pretty much every aspect of your life.

Umunna is understood to have been particularly worried that his solicitor girlfriend, Alice Sullivan, was under the spotlight. It was claimed that not only were journalists interested in the Lewis Silkin employment specialist herself, but the reptiles were also door-stepping her parents and her 102-year-old grandmother.

Therefore, less than 48 hours — which let’s face it, is hardly much time to let the heat build — after the ex-City lawyer threw his hat into the ring, Umunna jumped out of the kitchen. Now Sullivan can return undisturbed to protecting large corporations from the demands of the sort of boiler-suited workers that used to represent Labour’s core vote.

Charming man

Following Umunna’s wobble and tumble, Labour legal profession devotees turned their attention to a potentially bigger future star, Sir Keir Starmer. “The Charmer” is a former Director of Public Prosecutions and current silk at one of London’s most fashionable chambers, Doughty Street.

Despite Labour’s national drubbing in the general election, Sir Keir waltzed into parliament in one of the party’s safest seats, London’s Holborn and St Pancras. In an advertisement for the power of ostensibly left-of-centre barrister candidates, Starmer boosted Labour’s majority by more than 7,000 votes to a stonking 17,000-plus.


No wonder, then, that acolytes and Charmer groupies concocted a Twitter hash-tag — #keirforleader — and started beating the tom-toms for their man to storm Labour HQ in Brewers Green in Westminster.

But on Sunday the Clark Kent look-a-like disappointed housewives of all political stripes by announcing over The Twitter that he wasn’t a runner.

Tea and sympathy

That means legal profession hopes in the party leader stakes are now reduced to the fortunes of Norman Lamb (who he? Ed), who is standing for the top job with the Liberal-Democrats (who they? Ed).


Lamb received a law degree from Leicester University before going on to become an employment law partner at what is now Norwich and London firm Steeles Law.

Although he probably won’t want to be reminded, Lamb held a couple of portfolios in the last coalition government, first being employment relations minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills before moving over to take the Health Department’s role of minister for care and support.

The Lib-Dems certainly need all the care, support, tea and sympathy they can muster, but whether Lamb is the man for the job remains debatable.

The solicitor just managed to hold his North Norfolk seat, thanks to a strong third place showing by Ukip, which was likely to have prevented the Conservatives from taking the honours.

And depending on which turf accountant you prefer, fellow Lib-Dem Tim Farron is the clear favourite to be chosen to pick up the party pieces. Farron is currently quoted at about 7-1 on, while the legal profession’s last chance is seen as a 4-1 outsider.


Move over Justine — here comes Alice [Legal Cheek]

Will a lawyer win Labour Party leadership battle? [Legal Cheek]