Chi Onwurah: Standing Up For Newcastle Central

Chi Onwurah for Newcastle Central 2019

Vote Labour on the 12 December

During my 9 and a half years in Parliament, I have helped improve the lives of residents, championed local causes and charities and spoken up for Newcastle and the North East.

It would be my honour to continue that tradition, which is why I'm standing again for Newcastle Central. Join me, and together, let's make a Britain that works for the many, not the few.

About Me

I was born in Wallsend, grew up on Hillsview Avenue in Kenton and went to Kenton School before studying Electrical Engineering in London. I have lived in many different cities around the world, without ever for a moment forgetting where I am from: Newcastle. My values and beliefs were formed in Newcastle based on the people I grew up with and my own experiences.

My family

My maternal grandfather was a sheet metal worker in the shipyards of the Tyne during the depression. My mother grew up in poverty in Garth Heads on the quayside. In the fifties she married my father, a Nigerian student at Newcastle Medical School. In 1965 I was born, whilst they were living in Long Benton where my father had a dental practise. I was still a baby when my father took us to live in Awka, Nigeria. .But two years later the Biafran Civil War broke out bringing famine with it and, as described vividly in an Evening Chronicle article in 1968, my mother, my brother and sister and I returned as refugees to Newcastle, whilst my father stayed on in the Biafran army.

This early experience of the impact of war on ordinary families left me with a strong sense of my own good fortune in living in a peaceful parliamentary democracy where it is possible to bring about change without taking up the gun or the sword. I am not a pacifist, I believe that our country is worth defending and fighting for. But we do live in a democracy and, increasingly, there are international institutions at the European and global level to enable us to pursue and defend our legitimate interests through debate and discussion.

My education

I benefited from a comprehensive, inspirational and free education for which I will always be grateful. I attended Hillsview nursery, infants and junior schools. A good start in a good school is critical in determining a child’s experience of education and the opportunities that it can bring. At Hillsview I learnt to enjoy learning, and to think that anything was possible. My mother made sure I understood how lucky I was to be able to walk two hundred yards to a great school when some children had to walk for hours to share a classroom with a hundred others.

At 11 I went to Kenton Comprehensive School. I studied for my O and A levels, but also played for our netball and hockey teams, had my first taste of public speaking and learnt to play the saxophone moderately badly. My education enabled me to hold my own with people from every walk of life, and to earn my living doing something I love, engineering. I want every child in Newcastle to have that opportunity. When I was 17 I was elected Kenton School’s MP in a mock election.

My working life

Newcastle’s great industrial past was my inspiration to become an engineer and I enjoyed a fulfilling career in engineering after I graduated from Imperial College in 1987. I 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 – UK, France, US, Nigeria, Denmark..During this time I also studied for an MBA from Manchester Business School and gained Chartered Engineering status. As an engineer I specialised in building out infrastructure in new markets and standardising wholesale Ethernet access. My last role before entering parliament was as head of Telecoms Technology for Ofcom the Communications Regulator

My interests

I have always campaigned for the causes I believed in. As a student I campaigned against the Federation of Conservative Students at Imperial College. Later I was very active in the Anti Apartheid Movement, and spent many years on its National Executive, and that of its successor organisation, ACTSA. Anti apartheid was one of the most successful popular movements ever and undermines the claims of those that believe real people are never interested in politics. People are interested in the politics that matters to them. Before being selected as Labour’s candidate for Newcastle I was on the Advisory Board of the Open University Business School, reflecting my belief in educational opportunity at every stage in life and for every level of ability.

Outside of politics and work I enjoy music, reading and long walks in the countryside.

My Record

During my 9 and a half years in Parliament, I have worked closely with the Council, local and regional businesses, community groups, charities, universities and constituents to improve the lives of residents and speak up for the region.

In this time I have taken action on behalf of 25,525 constituents that have contacted me for help with individual issues, and responded to 36,455 policy issues. The Chronicle named me as the North East’s hardest working MP.

I believe in openness and transparency, and this is why I publish the figures for constituency work on my website together with details of my meetings, visits and speeches. You can also view my expenses claims here.

Since first being elected I have secured and led twelve debates in Westminster Hall. Westminster Hall is a smaller debating chamber in parliament for MPs to raise issues with Ministers. Topics of debates I have secured include the Internet of Things, health inequalities in the North East, housing in NewcastleWASPI, and mitochondrial disease (which Newcastle University has been pioneering research into) and the unfair impact of state pension changes on working class women.

I have worked with fan groups at Newcastle United Football club, challenging the Government on their approach to football governance and the problems this has led to at the club.

I have also secured several Adjournment Debates – short debates at the end of each parliamentary day. One such debate on the planned closure of the Richardson Eating Disorder Unit in Newcastle resulted in a Ministerial meeting which saved the unit – the only one in the region – from closure.

I have presented four petitions on behalf on constituents: one on the Blaydon Races; one opposing plans for a Drivethru McDonalds at Kenton Lodge; one on young people and body image; and one on pension changes for women born in the 1950s.

As a Chartered Engineer I have campaigned to make ICT and engineering more accessible to all, particularly girls, and to bring engineering and ICT jobs to the North East.

I get asked to do surveys or talks for a fee, and when I do this I often donate the money to local charities like the Peoples Kitchen or the West End Foodbank. I also give talks at charity events, such as at the Anne Frank Trust in Newcastle recently.

Working for a fairer and better society

As well as regularly speaking up for Newcastle on everything from the economy, jobs and skills, to local health and transport services, to arts and culture, I am the Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation, and I work with colleagues to develop Labour party policy in these areas, meeting different stakeholders across the North East and the U.K. to get hear their views too.

I was previously Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy. In this role I scrutinised the Government on its disastrous broadband policies and spoke up for libraries and the importance of the digital economy to the UK.

In the 2010-15 Parliament I was the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister for Digital Government, cyber security and social enterprise. In this role I commissioned a review of Digital Government, set out how a Labour Government will support social enterprise, and led the Opposition’s scrutiny at all stages of the Deregulation Act 2015 in the House of Commons. I have promoted the North East as a hub for both digital industries and social enterprise, most recently holding a seminar in Newcastle on how small businesses could benefit from digital government.

I have also sat on the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee and scrutinised the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 as a Shadow Business Minister.

Working in Parliament

Inside Parliament I have been very active, speaking 359 times since being re-elected in June 2017  – well above the average amongst MPs. I ask more written questions than most MPs – 762 since the election – and my attendance record at votes is also above average.

As a former engineer I have worked hard to increase the availability of independent, balanced and accessible analysis of science and technology issues.

I am chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa and of the APPG for Diversity and Inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

I have worked with other MPs and peers to set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Education which I also chair.

Expenses

My expenses are published regularly by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). You can view them on the IPSA website s here.

How I have voted: 2017 to now

My voting record is public and you can read more here.

This Parliament has been dominated by Brexit. I have voted against the Governments four ‘deals’ for leaving the EU, because I thought each would be bad for my constituents and the North East. I voted to support the so-called Benn Act to prevent a No Deal Brexit and supported motions that protected Parliament’s ability to hold the government to account.

Outside of Brexit, I voted to extend the same abortion rights to Northern Irish women that exist in the rest of the U.K., and against the roll out of Universal Credit.

Since my re-election in 2017, I have taken action on behalf of a further 6,839 constituents who have contacted me for help with individual issues, and responded to 8,842 policy issues.

How I have voted: 2015 – 2017

In this period I made 251 spoken contributions and asked 465 written questions.

After consulting constituents, I voted against giving the Prime Minister the right to Trigger Article 50. I did this because while I believe that the British people voted to leave the European Union, we did not vote for the reckless hard Brexit that the Tories are now proposing. You can watch my speech on the issue here and my video message after the vote here.

I also voted to protect the residence rights of the 3 million citizens of the European Union and their family members who are currently resident in the UK. A Labour Government would guarantee the residence rights of these citizens immediately.

I have repeatedly voted against this Government’s restrictions on the rights of working people and trade unions.

I voted against George Osborne’s Budget cuts to Personal Independent Payments for disabled people and his disgraceful plans to cut £4.4bn in tax credits to working families. The Government eventually backed down on both.

I voted in favour of the ‘Dubs Amendment’ to act on Save the Children’s call for Britain to take 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children.

I voted against the Government’s forced academisation plans. The Education Minister has since announced that they are abandoning the plans.

I voted against the Government’s politically motivated attacks designed to permanently weaken the opposition and the trade union movement in the Trade Union Bill. The Government eventually backed down on

On Syria, I asked constituents to send me their views on whether the UK should extend airstrikes against Daesh/ISIS from Iraq to Syria. The vast majority of the constituents who contacted me were against airstrikes and after thinking very carefully about it, I agreed with them and voted against the proposal. I set out my reasoning here.

I have opposed the Tory Housing Bill, which will leave a £593m hole in our city’s long term plan for social housing as well as forcing the council to sell off higher value properties. In May 2016 I secured a debate in Parliament on Housing in Newcastle, which can be read here.

Between 2015-17, I have taken action on behalf of a further 5,883 constituents who have contacted me for help with individual issues, and responded to 8,740 policy issues.

How I have voted: 2010 – 2015

I have voted repeatedly against the Government’s vicious bedroom tax. A Labour Government will scrap it.

I voted against the Government’s £3bn reorganisation of the NHS at every opportunity. I voted against marketisation and in favour of restricting the use of NHS services for private patients. I also moved to block regulations that would open the NHS up to further marketisation. A Labour Government will repeal these changes and stop further privatisation.

On tax, I have voted against the Government’s tax cut for millionaires and corporation tax. I have voted against rising VAT, as it hits the poorest hardest.

I voted against raising tuition fees cap to £9,000.

I voted against this Government’s unfair council funding allocations, which meant that Newcastle had to make £100m of cuts, whereas some Councils in richer areas ended up with few or even no cuts to make. A Labour Government will make the system fairer and devolve £30bn of funding to local and regional bodies.

Many constituents contacted me about the vote for equal gay rights and same-sex marriage. A large majority wanted me to support it, and I did.

I voted against the privatisation of Royal Mail and restrictions on legal aid.

I voted to recognise Palestine as a state, and believe that both Israel and Palestine deserve safety and security and control over their own destinies.

I also voted against selling off our forests, which was stopped.

Between 2010 and 2015 I took taken action on behalf of 12,803 constituents who have contacted me for help with individual issues, and responded to a further 18,873 policy issues raised by constituents.

Working to change Parliament

Being an MP is an immense privilege. It is one I believe should be open to more people from different backgrounds, particularly women, those with disabilities, those from working class backgrounds and black and ethnic minorities. These are the groups which are under-represented in Parliament today. I hope that in future Parliament will look more like the people we see on Northumberland Street.

I have visited and spoken at every primary and secondary school in Newcastle to emphasise that Parliament belongs to everyone and should be accessible to everyone.

I have encouraged constituents to visit me in Parliament and arranged dozens of tours for them. If you are a constituent and would like to request a tour, please get in touch using the contact details on this page.

I have spoken on request at many different organisations on the different ways to become an MP and the importance of holding MPs to account.

After the terrorist attack in Westminster on the 22nd of March, I used a question to the Prime Minister to emphasise the need for Parliament to remain accessible to all.

Get Involved

Working For You In Parliament