Chi Onwurah

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Chi Onwurah
File:Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Chi Onwurah MP (5981056622).jpg
Bola Tinubu and Chi Onwurah
Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills
Assumed office
18 September 2015
Leader Jeremy Corbyn
Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport
Assumed office
18 September 2015
Leader Jeremy Corbyn
Member of Parliament
for Newcastle upon Tyne Central
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Jim Cousins
Majority 7,466 (21.9%)
Personal details
Born (1965-04-12) 12 April 1965 (age 54)
Wallsend, Northumberland (now Tyne and Wear), England
Nationality British
Political party Labour

Chi Onwurah[1] (born 12 April 1965)[2] is a British Labour Party politician, who was elected at the 2010 general election as the Member of Parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, replacing the previous Labour MP Jim Cousins, who decided to step down and left the seat.[3] She is Newcastle's first black MP.[4]

Early life

During the depression of the 1930s, Onwurah’s maternal grandfather was a sheet metal worker in Tyneside shipyards. Her mother grew up in poverty in Garth Heads on Newcastle’s quayside. Her father, from Nigeria, was working as a dentist while he studied at Newcastle Medical School when they met and married in the 1950s.

After Chi was born in Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1965, her family moved to Awka, Nigeria when she was still a baby. Just two years later the Biafra War broke out bringing famine with it, forcing her mother to bring the children back to Newcastle, whilst her father stayed on in the Biafran army.[5]

Onwurah went on to gain a degree in Electrical Engineering from Imperial College London in 1987.[6] She worked in hardware and software development, product management, market development and strategy for a variety of mainly private sector companies in a number of different countries – Britain, France, US, Nigeria and Denmark while studying for an MBA at Manchester Business School.

Prior to becoming an MP she was Head of Telecoms Technology at OFCOM, with a focus on broadband provision.

Political career

Onwurah was very active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and spent many years on its National Executive, and that of its successor organisation, ACTSA. She also joined the Advisory Board of the Open University Business School.

She was elected to Parliament in 2010 with a majority of 7466.[7] She described Parliament as a “culture shock" but also said that compared with her engineering background “parliament is the most diverse working environment I’ve ever been in, the most gender balanced”. [8]

Onwurah supported Ed Miliband in the 2010 Labour Party leadership election.[9] Miliband appointed Onwurah as a junior shadow minister for Business, Innovation and Skills on 10 October 2010. In 2013 she was given the role as a Shadow Minister in the Cabinet Office.[7]

In February 2014, Onwurah spoke in a parliamentary debate she had called on gender-specific toy marketing and lent her support to the campaign Let Toys Be Toys, telling the House of Commons:

“Before entering Parliament, I spent two decades as a professional engineer, working across three continents. Regardless of where I was or the size of the company, it was always a predominantly male, or indeed all-male, environment, but it is only when I walk into a toy shop that I feel I am really experiencing gender segregation.”[10]

She later told Kira Cochrane, a reporter for The Guardian, that she believes the limiting of children by gender stereotypes is a serious economic issue, with the proportion of female students on engineering degree courses having fallen from 12% to 8% in the thirty years since she had started studying for one herself. Referring to a shortage of engineers and the UK having "the lowest proportion in Europe of women who are professional engineers" she said "toys are so important and formative, and for me this is about the jobs of the future, about what happens in 10 or 15 years' time. We can't go on with a segregated society."[11]

In the 2015 Labour Party leadership election, Onwurah announced her support for Andy Burnham having originally nominated Jeremy Corbyn to "broaden the debate".[12]

After Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour party in September 2015, Onwurah was made Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, as well as Culture Media and Sport.[13]

Personal life

Onwurah supports Newcastle United FC.[14]


  1. The London Gazette: no. 59418. p. 8738. 13 May 2010.
  2. "Chi Onwurah". BBC News. Democracy Live.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Election 2010: Results". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Labour Party website". Retrieved 2010-11-03. |archive-url= is malformed: timestamp (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Chinyelu Onwurah". Telegraph. Retrieved 7 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Chi Onwurah". Parliament. Retrieved 28 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Chakelian, Anoosh (25 July 2014). ""Instead of getting Jackanory, I got the Trades Union Congress": Chi Onwurah MP". New Statesman. Retrieved 28 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Why I'm supporting Ed Miliband Chi Onwurah, 27 July 2010
  10. Hansard (5 February 2014). House of Commons debate: ‘Children’s Toys (Gender–specific Marketing)’, col. 138WH. accessdate=29 November 2014
  11. Cochrane, Kira (22 April 2014). "The fightback against gendered toys". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. I've Made My Choice and It's Andy Burnham New Statesman, 13 August 2015
  13. Chakelian, Anoosh (2015-09-18). "Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet: the full list of ministers". New Statesman. Retrieved 2015-09-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. On His Way To Wembley, Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, UK), July 15, 2011 Friday, A; Pg. 22, 358 words, Alastair Craig

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jim Cousins
Member of Parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne Central