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'I don't deny I'm ambitious,' says the rising star of Labour Chuka Umunna

  • @NigelpMorris

Labour is drawing inspiration from Germany to create a new industrial strategy for Britain to provide a future model for the economy, the shadow Business Secretary said last night.

Speaking at The Independent fringe meeting, Chuka Umunna said Labour was looking to adopt ideas like appointing workers to company boards and giving them a say over directors' pay as part of a radical shake-up of industrial strategy.

But he also pledged that Labour would never "prop up" failing industries and would only provide state aid for growth areas of the government.

Mr Umunna, who has been tipped as a future Labour leader, only became an MP two years ago but is already one of the party's most senior figures.

The son of a refugee from Nigeria and an Irish lawyer mother, whose father, Sir Helenus Milmo, was a High Court judge, Mr Umunna has had a meteoric rise through the Labour ranks to be appointed to the business brief last year.

He has won admirers for his assured performances on television and for scoring points against Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, in the House of Commons.

Mr Umunna has also led the Labour charge against excessive bonuses for bankers and called for the retail and investment sides of bank operations to be split.

Speaking at the fringe event, Mr Umunna said he believed that under Ed Miliband the Labour party could create a coherent economic and political philosophy that could combine the best of parts of Blairism but that could respond to the new challenges brought on by the economic crisis.

"This is too big and serious an event to allow us to be constrained by factions," Mr Umunna said. "We're one big movement that wants a centre-Left, social democratic government."

He sidestepped questions over his future leadership ambitions, saying he "still pinches" himself that he is an MP.

"You can't believe, or be affected, by that hype," he said. "I've never denied that I'm ambitious, but I'm ambitious for my politics."

Mr Umunna paid enthusiastic tribute to Mr Miliband's achievement in ending the back-biting that surfaced during the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown years. "One of the things I find frustrating is you totally underestimate Ed – he is incredibly steely and calm under pressure."

He was also withering about suggestions that a future Labour-led administration could work in coalition with the Liberal Democrats under Mr Cable.

"Vince Cable thinks he can become leader of the Liberal Democrats, that he can pose as having nothing to do with all things the Coalition has been doing to my community. My community aren't that stupid… We will judge him by his actions.

"If Vince Cable had opposed the reorganisation of the NHS they probably wouldn't have been able to do it. The same thing with tuition fees – but he was the architect of them."