Will a lawyer win Labour Party leadership battle?

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By Judge John Hack on

Several are lined up to take poisoned chalice from battered and bruised Miliband. And there are even a couple of Lib-Dem solicitors that could step into Clegg’s shoes


Three lawyers — Chuka Umunna, Sadiq Khan and Karl Turner — will shortly square up in a political mud-wrestling match for the poisoned chalice of the Labour leadership in the wake of last night’s wipeout for the party.

The two south London MPs — Umunna (pictured above) and Khan — will be likely candidates, with turf accountants bound to quote much longer odds on northern Turner.

Those planning leadership bids will doubtless spend today drawing up battle plans after Ed Miliband threw in the towel.

Umunna — who was Labour’s shadow secretary of state for business and innovation in the last parliament — is likely to be viewed as a front runner, having provided one of a very few bright moments for his party last night. He bucked the national trend by dramatically increasing Labour’s majority in Streatham — up from around 3,250 to a few votes short of 14,000.

Umunna read law at Manchester University before doing an LLM at Nottingham Law School and then qualifying as a solicitor at pre-merger City firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

One glitch for Umunna might be his age — he won’t be 37 until October. But with Labour taking such a hammering, the party could easily be in the mood for young blood.

Kahn (picture below) is somewhat older — he was also born in October, but he’s knocking on 45 this year.


The shadow secretary of state for justice in the last parliament had a much tougher fight yesterday in Tooting, although he marginally increased his majority over the Tories to slightly more than 2,800.

Kahn’s law degree came from the University of North London; he then did the Legal Practice Course at the Guildford branch of the then College of Law before qualifying at renowned London legal aid law firm Christian Fisher.

Rank outsider

Leadership rank outsider Turner (pictured below) also defied the national trend by increasing his majority in Kingston upon Hull East, pushing the Conservatives into third place behind UKIP.


Turner, who had his 44th birthday last month, was recently promoted to shadow solicitor general. Indeed, the MP took a lot of social media heat in the aftermath of that move up the greasy political pole. Having been an ardent critic of the last coalition government’s legal aid cuts, Turner appeared to tone down his calls for the reinstatement of funding to toe the more restrained Labour leadership line.

If anyone is still interested in the Liberal-Democrats, two lawyers could joust for the leadership now that Nick Clegg has fallen on his sword and asked his Dechert partner wife to support him.

Solicitor Alistair Carmichael will bring macho points to the contest, being one of only three non-Scottish Nationalists to retain a seat north of the border. Likewise, employment law solicitor Norman Lamb convincingly held on to his Norfolk North seat.

Big loss

The big lawyer loss for the Lib-Dems was Simon Hughes, who had become something of an institution in his south-east London seat. But the barrister arguably paid for being too close to the Tories — he was a justice minister under Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling — and fell dramatically last night to Labour.

One factor that could thwart the leadership ambitions of all these legal profession MPs was a poll showing that punters are fed up with so many lawyers in the House of Commons.

Some 46% of respondents told YouGov that they would like to see fewer lawyers in the mother of all parliaments, while only 24% called for more MPs from the legal profession.

Instead, the public wants to see more doctors, scientists and factory workers in the Commons. The only category to fare worse than lawyers in the poll was “reporters”, which arguably means journalists.

But then YouGov didn’t exactly cover itself in glory in the run-up to yesterday’s general election — and to be fair, nor did any of the pollsters — so perhaps this survey should just be chucked in the bin.