The politician: Chuka Umunna

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The Independent Online

Chuka Umunna is not a household name yet, even within his own party, but he is winning rave reviews as one of the next generation of Labour politicians. He is not an MP, but has a strong chance of becoming one at the next general election having been chosen as Labour's candidate in Streatham, south London, where he has lived all his life.

The highly articulate 30-year-old employment lawyer is even tipped by some senior Labour figures as the man who could be the next leader to take the party to an election victory. It is not a label he would welcome, since history is littered with ex-"future leaders".

Umunna will want to be known as a "Labour MP" rather than a "black MP". He does not want to be seen as "Labour's Barack Obama", even though party colleagues see him as an inspirational figure too. He was ecstatic about Obama's election victory, saying: "Words cannot express how happy I am." He has noted that they have one thing in common – a strange name. He will try to avoid the media limelight, and is anxious to avoid the fate of David Lammy, the black Skills Minister, who struggled to live up to his billing after being tipped as a future Labour leader.

Umunna is no fan of New Labour, a brand that might well be out of fashion after an election defeat. A free-thinker, he disliked the "on message" control-freakery of the Blair era. He is on the board of Compass, the left-wing pressure group, and has urged Gordon Brown to be bold by adopting policies such as a windfall tax on energy companies. Although untested at a high level, he is seen as charming and ambitious. Friends say he is on the party's soft or pragmatic left and will gravitate towards its mainstream as he rises up the political ladder.

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