Emily was born in Guildford in 1960. When she was a child, her dad left his family behind, and they fell on hard times. 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, but left school after her A-Levels and took on a series of jobs to make ends meet, from working in a care home to cleaning toilets on cross-Channel ferries.
She eventually decided to go to university and study law, and 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, increasing the Labour vote share by 5.5 percentage points to almost 37%, by far the highest the party had ever achieved in that seat, and turning the seat into a marginal. 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.