Chuka was born in 1978 to a Nigerian father, who arrived in Liverpool in 1964 aged 23 with one suitcase and no money; and an English-Irish mother, a probation officer and later lawyer who supported her family while Chuka’s father built up his business.
Chuka grew up in Streatham and attended local schools before going on to specialise as a solicitor in employment law.
A lifelong Crystal Palace supporter, Chuka is a patron of the Palace for Life Foundation, the charitable arm of the club, which focuses on working with young people in South London. He is also an ambassador for PRS Foundation, who fund music projects across the UK for new and up and coming artists; and a patron of the Pegasus Opera Company, who create opportunities for young black singers from all backgrounds to develop and perform in innovative opera productions.
Chuka hosts an occasional radio show on Mi-Soul radio.
Chuka was elected MP for Streatham since May 2010 – the first MP to have grown up in the area. He was re-elected with an increased majority in 2015 with 53% of the vote and 68.5% of the vote in 2017. He served as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills from October 2011 and returned to the backbenches in September 2015.
In the EU Referendum, Chuka campaigned for Remain, taking a leading role in the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign. He also chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, which aims to find ways of bringing our different communities together.
“We’re asking you to help us shape what our next steps should be”
Chuka’s statement 18 February 2019
The values which have driven our decision today are shaped by who we are, where we are from, our experiences.
I’m of mixed heritage – you might not be able to tell – I’m a quarter English, a quarter Irish and half Nigerian. My forebears came to this country driven by the hope and optimism that if you put the effort in, you can get on and lead a good life in Britain. My father arrived from Nigeria with no money and worked and he way up to become a successful entrepreneur. In spite of the prejudice he experienced, the platform this country gave him to succeed was Britain at its very best.
But we’ve had our ups and our downs. He, the only breadwinner in the family, was killed in a car crash when I was just 13. His death taught me that regardless of your circumstances, people need one another. We want our families to get on in the good times; but, my gosh, we need to support each other through the bad times.
Too many in Britain face barriers in fulfilling their dreams, their potential. And people don’t get the support they need. We believe it doesn’t have to be this way. Fundamental change is needed.
Now the last few years have shown the established parties are simply not up to this challenge. They can’t be the change because they have become the problem.
They have failed to provide the leadership and clear direction which the UK desperately needs. They are deeply divided. They have failed to fulfil their duties with the competence the public rightly deserves. They’ve put their party political interests before the national interest. And they don’t represent the complex tapestry which is modern Britain.
Now. There are those who would say there is no alternative. We are doomed to be saddled with the same old politics. That we have to settle for voting for the least worst option or, you know, simply to keep the other lot out, stop them from getting in. That no matter how incompetent they are, we have no option but to vote for these people. We reject this completely.
When our democracy is failing, the British people have overcome the hurdles over history to build a better future. We demanded elected MPs take precedence over unelected Lords. We insisted working men and women have the vote. We said our Parliament should better reflect and look more like the country in terms of gender and ethnicity. And now we have got to change our politics again.
It is time we dumped this country’s old fashioned politics and created an alternative that does justice to who we are today and gives this country a politics fit for the here and now – the 21st Century not the last one.
So, we have taken the first step in leaving the old, tribal politics behind and we invite others who share our political values to do so too. You might come from a Labour background but you might come from other political traditions. And yes it’s a difficult decision, make no mistake about that, but think about it: you don’t join a party to spend years and years fighting those within it. You get involved in politics, you join a party, to change the world. So we invite you to leave your parties and help us forge a new consensus on a way forward for Britain.
We will sit together as an Independent Group of MPs in the House of Commons from here on. We haven’t yet assigned roles or responsibilities between us. But we will have our first formal meeting as a new group of MPs in the coming days.
We want to finish, today, by speaking directly to the people who send us here – the British people.
For far too long, political parties in Westminster – parties of which we’ve been a part – have been failing you.
If you’re sick and tired of politics-as-usual, well, guess what? So are we. That is why we have done what we have today, and why we commit to doing things differently. We don’t have all the answers. So we’ll treat people like adults and be honest about the tough choices facing Britain.
We don’t have the big money or infrastructure of the political parties – all we can do is direct you to our website – please sign up – and we’re asking you to help us shape what our next steps should be. Building a new politics cannot be done in committee rooms in Westminster so we want to invite you, the British people, to join in this endeavour. If you want an alternative, please help us build it.
The bottom line is this: politics is broken. It doesn’t have to be this way. Lets change it.