Emily was born in Guildford in 1960. When she was seven her father left, and the family spent many years on benefits. A Labour councillor helped them find a house on a local council estate, and eventually persuaded Emily’s mum to run for the council herself.
It was her mum’s inspiration that turned Emily into a lifelong Labour campaigner, and she has been a member of the party since her teenage years. She failed her 11-plus, went to a secondary modern, then moved to Hammersmith to complete her A-levels.
Emily studied law at Kent University and took on variety of jobs to make ends meet, from working in a care home to cleaning toilets on cross-Channel ferries. After qualifying as a barrister in the mid-1980s, she began her career representing striking miners, Wapping print-workers and P&O seafarers, while continuing her Labour campaigning in East London, and marching against the rise of the National Front. She met her husband, Christopher, in law school, and they have three children.
Emily first stood for election in Canterbury in 2001. She increased Labour’s vote share by 5.5 percentage points, turning the seat into a marginal and coming within 2000 votes of winning – Labour’s best result in Canterbury up to that point. When she next stood in Islington South and Finsbury in 2005, in the wake of the Iraq War, it was the top Lib Dem target seat in the country, but Emily personally knocked on 11,800 doors and won by 484 votes.
Since first being elected in 2005, Emily has been re-elected four times. She has campaigned tirelessly on issues of great importance to the community of Islington South and Finsbury, including the housing crisis, the climate emergency, and social equality. She is one of the longest continually serving members of the shadow cabinet, and since 2016 has covered the Defence, Brexit, Foreign Affairs, and International Trade briefs in that time, while also serving as Shadow First Secretary of State. Since November 2021, she has held the role of Shadow Attorney General.