Move over Justine — here comes Alice

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By Judge John Hack on

As Mrs Miliband prepares to get back to chambers untroubled by the media glare, Chuka Umunna’s employment lawyer girlfriend braces herself for the roller coaster


Politics is cruel — as anyone who has eaten a bacon sandwich laden with fresh tomatoes and lashings of brown sauce will agree. One day you’re instructing your high-flying barrister wife to prepare for government; the next, she’s whisked you off on a bucket flight to Ibiza to get over the pain of defeat.

If anyone is entitled to be secretly relieved that the Labour Party took a spectacular nosedive in last week’s general election, it is 39 Essex Street environment lawyer Justine Miliband. She can wave a restrained good-bye to the media spotlight — and tabloid suggestions that she is arguably Britain’s most dangerous cyclist — and get back to being Ms Thornton to the clerks.

But hang on — before legal profession politics junkies sink into a pit of despair at the lack of a star “other half” from their own profession to brighten the firmament … meet Alice Elizabeth Jane Sullivan, aka, the woman that steps out with Labour leadership hopeful, Chuka Umunna

The three-year-qualified solicitor is an employment specialist at trendy firm Lewis Silkin, which is slap bang in the heart of legal London, Chancery Lane.


Sullivan read politics at Bristol University, graduating in 2007 and heading to BPP Law School, where she finished her Legal Practice Course two years later.

Her role at Lewis Silkin appears to involve pretty standard employment law fare, with a bit of a bent towards nasty employers (not very Labour). The only entry in “Alice’s Journal” on the firm’s website, is a co-authored 2012 article advising banks on drafting watertight staff contracts.

When not assisting big business, Sullivan’s website entry tells us that “I enjoy going to the theatre, travelling abroad, catching up with friends and weekends in the countryside”.

Doubtless, she will be regarded with a degree of suspicion and envy by the fair women of Streatham, her boyfriend’s constituency since 2010. The former City lawyer — Umunna did a stint in the employment department at pre-merger Herbert Smith Freehills (again, presumably not acting for donkey-jacketed workers) — is something of a heartthrob in south London.

But Sullivan is already gathering friends and protectors on social media. Some Twitter commentators — such as “Labour supporter” LouiseT — are warning the press to back off.

But then others — such as Guido Fawkes commentator and Spectator contributor Harry Cole — have already lined Sullivan up in the cross hairs.


Of course, it may never happen — 36-year-old boyfriend Chuka might take the view that he has plenty of time to bid for the Labour top slot, and doesn’t need to take the reins of such a battered and bruised party at the moment.

Or he might just throw his hat in now — and take a beating from Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper. But a word of warning to the young lawyer in Chancery Lane, the unofficial voice of the party — The Guardian newspaper’s website — quoted your beau as the 2-1 favourite last Sunday.

Update 11:55: Chuka Umunna to run for Labour leader [BBC News]


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