‘The best pupil ever’ – Emily Thornberry

fifty-nine quotes by and about
Emily Thornberry
born 1960
Labour MP for Islington South & Finsbury, 2005–
shadow foreign secretary, 2016–

‘Thornberry has been a Labour member since she was seventeen. Her parents, a teacher and a law professor at the LSE, divorced when she was seven. She remembers the bailiffs who ejected them from their home, and moving with her mother and siblings to social housing in Guildford. They were raised on benefits, secondhand clothes, free school dinners, food parcels; often, she says, they couldn’t afford to heat the house.’ – Guardian (2009) [i]

‘The senior clerk of a chambers where I did pupillage [told me] that, although I was the best pupil they had ever had, I couldn’t be taken on as they didn’t want a reputation as a “women’s set of chambers”.’ – Emily Thornberry (2003) [ii]

‘Emily Thornberry was called to the Bar in 1983 and is a criminal defence barrister in Tooks Court, believed by many to have been the model for the radical set of chambers in the television series Blind Justice.’ – Financial Times (1989) [iii]

‘A human-rights lawyer, married to a QC, she moved into the same street – in the same week – as Tony Blair and Cherie Booth.’ – Guardian (2009) [iv]

‘My local Labour candidate in Islington, Emily Thornberry, has been exposed as a mum who sends her daughter to a highly regarded selective school outside the borough in Barnet.’ – Janet Street-Porter (2005) [v]

‘No matter how much people hate us, we’re necessary.’ – Emily Thornberry, on politicians (2009) [vi]

‘We’re the last country in Europe to introduce parental leave. But who is going to take it if it’s not paid? Certainly not fathers.’ – Emily Thornberry (1999) [vii]

‘Are you asking me the colour of my knickers? For I can assure you that they’re red.’ – Emily Thornberry, at the meeting that failed to select her as Labour’s candidate for Dagenham (2000) [viii]

‘The first time I did a TV appearance, for a party political broadcast promoting cycling, there were all these comments on the website about my size. It was a real shock. I got over it but it is really, really tough.’ – Emily Thornberry (2008) [ix]

‘I’ve been a gay icon a number of times, especially when I spun the decks at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.’ – Emily Thornberry (2017) [x]

‘He needs to man up a bit and do his job.’ – Emily Thornberry, on David Cameron (2012) [xi]

‘Our bank notes celebrate the lives of great Britons – just having men on our notes is simply wrong,’ – Emily Thornberry (2013) [xii]

‘I kept my last name when I got married because I’m “Emily Thornberry”, but when I had my first child my husband swooped. I just thought, “This is a bit of my body that is now out in the world. How sweet he thinks he’s got something to do with it.”’ – Emily Thornberry (2018) [xiii]

‘I’m the only Emily elected since 1918, and he is one of 155 Davids.’ – Emily Thornberry, to David Lidington in House of Commons (2018) [xiv]

Thornberry ‘has one of the loveliest voices in Parliament – it is like that of a narrator of a fairytale.’ – Ben Wallace, Conservative MP (2009) [xv]

‘I can sing Evita from beginning to end.’ – Emily Thornberry (2018) [xvi]

‘I strongly opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq. Emily Thornberry joined me in that opposition.’ – Chris Smith, Thornberry’s predecessor as Islington South & Finsbury MP (2005) [xvii]

‘Why Islington residents who oppose the Iraq war should vote Labour – Public Meeting with Rt Hon Robin Cook, Emily Thornberry (Labour parliamentary candidate) and Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North).’ – leaflet distributed in Islington South & Finsbury (2005) [xviii]

‘Ms Thornberry served as a Parliamentary aide to Ed Miliband’s climate change department in the final years of the Labour government. After 2010, she was shadow energy and climate change minister, shadow care minister and, since October 2011, in the shadow cabinet as shadow attorney-general. She was described as more a follower of Gordon Brown than her former neighbour Blair, and was the first MP to back Ed Miliband for leadership of the Labour party in 2010.’ – Daily Telegraph (2014) [xix]

‘The time of New Labour is over. It’s our time now.’ – Emily Thornberry (2011) [xx]

‘She voted against the ban on smoking in public places. But she now thinks she was wrong.’ – Guardian (2014) [xxi]

‘If you look at poor children now, they are not thin, they are overweight. That is because of poor eating, because of bad eating habits. Part of your education ought to be teaching you about, you know, how you can grow a carrot.’ – Emily Thornberry (2017) [xxii]Rochester tweet

‘Image from #Rochester.’ – Emily Thornberry, tweeting from the Rochester and Strood by-election (2014; the house pictured was actually in Strood) [xxiii]

‘It appears that I got it wrong. I made a mistake. I have resigned. If I have upset anyone or insulted anybody, I apologise.’ – Emily Thornberry, on the #Rochester tweet (2014) [xxiv]

‘This is an Emily Thornberry special. She’s known as a classic “suck up, kick down” politician, and found she had no friends to defend her following her bizarre behaviour.’ – an anonymous ‘Labour insider’ (2014) [xxv]

‘I think it’s very sad to lose a trusted and good colleague in the run-up to a general election. But we should also be very clear that we are hugely in favour in the Labour Party of people expressing pride in their national identity and national symbols.’ – Labour MP Tristram Hunt (2014) [xxvi]

‘He is completely at peace with himself. It doesn’t matter what other people say. It won’t knock him off course.’ – Emily Thornberry, on Jeremy Corbyn (2015) [xxvii]

Thornberry ‘said she would vote for Miss [Yvette] Cooper, saying that Mr Corbyn’s supporters were attracted by his “primary colours”. She said: “He is attractive as an opposition prime minister, but we don’t want an opposition politician we want a new prime minister.”’ – Daily Telegraph (2015) [xxviii]

‘Major boost for Labour in Parliament with return of Emily Thornberry, principled, idealist, intellectually strong & brilliant communicator.’ – Labour MP Paul Flynn, tweeting on Thornberry’s appointment as shadow defence secretary (2016) [xxix]

‘We have got to be credible on defence in the country and I think appointing Emily is a mistake. So did Tom Watson.’ – Labour MP Kevan Jones (2016; Tom Watson denied making any such comment) [xxx]

‘I have actually quite a lot more experience than people might think I do. I have a member of my family who is in the armed forces. I have a brother-in-law who is a general. I was actually made an honorary lieutenant colonel when I was doing court martials when I was a barrister and so I have a certain amount of experience of the military there.’ – Emily Thornberry (2016) [xxxi]

‘Miss Thornberry accepted three donations in kind from Leigh Day, a law firm that was heavily criticised after a £31 million inquiry into claims that British troops had tortured and murdered Iraqi detainees. The Al-Sweady inquiry, which lasted for five years, concluded that the allegations were baseless and the product of “deliberate and calculated lies” from Iraqi witnesses and detainees driven by a desire to smear the British military. Leigh Day is now facing disciplinary action over the shredding of a key document which had the potential to stop the costly proceedings in their tracks. Despite the controversy, Miss Thornberry defended Leigh Day as an “outstanding firm of solicitors” and said it was not up to lawyers to decide “whether or not what their clients were saying was correct”.’ – Daily Telegraph (2016) [xxxii]

‘Speaking on Talk Radio, Ms Thornberry stated her own view that the [Falkland] Islanders’ desire to remain British should be respected and confirmed that to be Labour party policy at present. She refused to say, however, whether Jeremy Corbyn agreed.’ – Times (2016) [xxxiii]

‘I don’t know why Jeremy gave me this job.’ – Emily Thornberry (2016) [xxxiv]


‘I don’t think being against nuclear weapons is that zany.’ – Emily Thornberry (2015) [xxxv]

‘I would support the use of whatever means are necessary in order to keep the British people safe.’ – Emily Thornberry (2016) [xxxvi]

Emily Thornberry ‘said it was the “Japanese option” to maintain submarines and nuclear capabilities without actually having operational nuclear weapons. Thornberry told the BBC’s Sunday Politics: “The way that it works is that the Japanese have got a capability to build a nuclear bomb … [but] you can then put them on to, or you can use them, in various delivery forms. So that’s a possibility, that is an option.”’ – Guardian (2016) [xxxvii]

‘There are forthcoming generations of drones that can work underseas. The idea of the Trident replacement it that it can hide in the sea. If technology is moving faster than that, then it may well be that Trident will not be able to hide.’ – Emily Thornberry (2016) [xxxviii]

‘A number of people, including her, talk about the fact that you could be able to detect submarines in the ocean. In my time in the Navy we spent millions – billions – trying to achieve that, other nations spent billions, and it was difficult. Suggesting there is a breakthrough on this is, I’m afraid, wrong.’ – Admiral Lord West, former Labour minister for security and counter-terrorism (2016) [xxxix]

‘Money is important, particularly at a time of financial stress. I think it is reckless for us to plough on ahead with the most expensive of all the various options and there are step-downs we can take.’ – Emily Thornberry, on renewing Trident (2016) [xl]

‘A future Labour government will not just revive talks on multilateral nuclear disarmament among the world’s great powers, we will make the success of those talk the test of our success on foreign policy.’ – Emily Thornberry [xli]

‘We chatted for one-and-a-half hours and agreed on absolutely everything, so I said, “You lead it”.’ – Ken Livingstone, on discussing Labour’s defence review with Emily Thornberry (2016) [xlii]

‘There are plenty of good people now who can make the case, we really don’t need to keep hearing from David Cameron. Plenty of women!’ – Emily Thornberry, during the EU referendum (2016) [xliii]

‘People are saying “you lost the referendum” and that somehow is Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. That is nonsense.’ – Emily Thornberry (2016) [xliv]

‘The majority of our trade takes place with the European Union. And things like our food industry, you can’t export it to Australia – it will go off.’ – Emily Thornberry (2017) [xlv]

‘As things currently stand we proceed in good faith, we do as we are instructed and we are leaving the EU.’ – Emily Thornberry (2018) [xlvi]

‘Emily Thornberry will replace Hilary Benn, who was sacked as shadow foreign secretary in the early hours of Sunday morning.’ – Coventry Telegraph (2016) [xlvii]

‘I certainly think sometimes when it comes to sexism, some Sky presenters need to look at themselves. It really upsets me that every time I come on here you do another pub quiz with me, because you do not do it with anybody else and I do think it’s patronising.’ – Emily Thornberry, on being asked by Sky presenter Dermot Murnaghan to name the French foreign minister and the president of South Korea (2016) [xlviii]

‘When it comes to human rights, when it comes to women’s rights, when it comes to torture and the treatment of minorities, President Trump is already descending down a very dangerous slope.’ – Emily Thornberry (2017) [xlix]

‘Reckless, mindless and downright dangerous. It makes a reality of Hillary Clinton’s prophecy that putting Donald Trump into the White House would create a real and present danger to world peace.’ – Emily Thornberry, on Donald Trump’s policy on Iran (2017) [l]

‘What our country needs and what the world needs is a British government prepared to stand up to him.’ – Emily Thornberry, on Donald Trump (2017) [li]

‘He is an asteroid of awfulness that has fallen on the world.’ – Emily Thornberry, on Donald Trump (2018) [lii]

‘If she [Theresa May] wins on June 8, as a fresh act of devotion to Trump, she will call an immediate vote on military action against the Syrian government. Not only would that escalate and prolong the war in Syria, it would risk bringing us into conflict with Russia and Iran – and all without any UN agreement or authorisation.’ – Emily Thornberry (2017) [liii]

‘Ultimately, we can only end this dreadful conflict and the suffering of all the Syrian people through genuine peace talks involving all non-jihadi parties and the agreement of a political solution.’ – Emily Thornberry (2018) [liv]

‘I think there has been a depth and a breadth of support for Assad that has been underestimated.’ – Emily Thornberry (2018) [lv]

‘I think it is important we raise our eye above our navels and look to the country.’ – Emily Thornberry (2016) [lvi]

‘People keep saying we can’t win votes in the South East. We had a tremendous result in Bristol, doubling our votes in four years.’ – Emily Thornberry (2016) [lvii]

‘It’s possible that we will form the next government and, if we do, there is no coalition. There’s no coalition, there’s no deals.’ – Emily Thornberry, on general election night (2017) [lviii]

‘They’re so fragile that anything could happen to knock them over, and we need to be ready to go.’ – Emily Thornberry, on the Conservative government (2017) [lix]

see also:

[i] Guardian 19 May 2009

[ii] Times 18 February 2003

[iii] Financial Times 22 July 1989

[iv] Guardian 19 May 2009

[v] Independent 28 April 2005

[vi] Guardian 19 May 2009

[vii] Daily Mirror 29 January 1999

[viii] Observer 28 May 2006

[ix] Sunday Times 20 April 2008

[x] Herald 9 June 2017

[xi] Guardian 30 April 2012

[xii] Evening Standard 13 May 2013

[xiii] Evening Standard 16 March 2018

[xiv] Sunday Mirror 4 February 2018

[xv] Guardian 19 May 2009

[xvi] Evening Standard 6 March 2018

[xvii] Guardian 9 April 2005

[xviii] Observer 1 May 2005

[xix] Daily Telegraph 21 November 2014

[xx] Sunday Times 9 January 2011

[xxi] Guardian 31 January 2014

[xxii] Birmingham Mail 11 April 2017

[xxiii] Independent 26 December 2014

[xxiv] Times 22 November 2014

[xxv] Times 22 November 2014

[xxvi] Guardian 20 November 2014

[xxvii] Independent 17 July 2015

[xxviii] Daily Telegraph 22 July 2015

[xxix] Guardian 6 January 2016

[xxx] Guardian 6 January 2016

[xxxi] PA Newswire 6 January 2016

[xxxii] Daily Telegraph 7 January 2016

[xxxiii] Times 31 March 2016

[xxxiv] Observer 10 January 2016

[xxxv] Guardian 5 January 2016

[xxxvi] PA Newswire 17 January 2016

[xxxvii] Guardian 17 January 2016

[xxxviii] Daily Mirror 9 February 2016

[xxxix] Evening Standard 9 February 2016

[xl] Daily Telegraph 18 July 2016

[xli] Guardian 26 September 2016

[xlii] Times 16 January 2016

[xliii] Guardian 13 June 2016

[xliv] Daily Mirror 27 June 2016

[xlv] Daily Telegraph 31 May 2017

[xlvi] Express 15 January 2018

[xlvii] Coventry Telegraph 27 June 2016

[xlviii] Daily Mirror 11 September 2016

[xlix] Herald 1 February 2017

[l] Herald 18 October 2017

[li] Guardian 7 December 2017

[lii] South Wales Echo 17 January 2018

[liii] Daily Telegraph 12 May 2017

[liv] Independent 26 February 2018

[lv] Independent 17 May 2018

[lvi] Daily Record 27 June 2016

[lvii] Birmingham Mail 11 May 2016

[lviii] Bury Times 8 June 2017

[lix] South Wales Echo 20 November 2017



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