Oona King: Wikis


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Oona King

Member of Parliament
for Bethnal Green & Bow
In office
2 May 1997 – 6 May 2005
Preceded by Constituency Established
Succeeded by George Galloway

Born 22 October 1967 (1967-10-22) (age 42)
Sheffield, England, UK
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Tiberio Santomarco
Alma mater University of York

Oona Tamsyn King (born 22 October 1967) is a British Labour politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green & Bow, from 1997 until 2005, when she was defeated by RESPECT candidate George Galloway.


Early life

King, who is mixed race, was born in 1967 to a Jewish mother committed to social justice issues, Murreil Hazels Stern, and an African-American father, political theorist Preston King. She is the niece of the medical doctor Miriam Stoppard (her mother's sister) and her playwright husband Tom Stoppard. [1]

King was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and educated at Haverstock Comprehensive Secondary School on Crogsland Road in Chalk Farm (borough of Camden), London, being there at the same time as David Miliband and his brother, Ed Miliband. She received a joint degree in Politics from both the University of York in the UK and the University of California, Berkeley in the USA, graduating with a BA in 1990.

Political life

King joined the Labour Party at the age of 14.

Before becoming an MP, King was on the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, and worked as a political assistant to Glyn Ford MEP, the Labour Party Leader in the European Parliament, and later Glenys Kinnock MEP. From 1995-97, she was a political organiser for the GMB Southern Region.

She was selected to represent the seat of Bethnal Green & Bow early in 1997. Peter Shore had announced his retirement early but faction fighting in the Constituency Labour Party led to party headquarters delaying the selection and imposing its own shortlist; some leading competitors from the local Bangladeshi community were not included.


1997 election to Parliament

By winning the seat in 1997, King became only the second black woman to be elected as Member of Parliament, the first being Diane Abbott. She has been selected as one of 100 Great Black Britons for this achievement.

In her maiden speech of 5 July 1997, King highlighted the influence that her and her parents' ethnic background had:

For me, racism is not an academic point. My father is black and my mother is Jewish. As a child in Newcastle, my mother was lined up against a wall and stoned because, as her schoolmates put it, she, as a Jew, was responsible for the death of their Lord... I have also been called names such as yid, nigger, wog, half-caste and mongrel. Those are unparliamentary terms, but I hope that my background can be a bridge between two cultures. [2]


King supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was controversial for the constituency's large Muslim population. This led to the RESPECT Coalition's George Galloway, a leader of the Stop the War Coalition, standing against her at the 2005 general election. This challenge was one of the media highlights of the election.[3]

She subsequently changed her views, after viewing the poor handling of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath by the United States:

it shows that America has no grasp whatever on the activity needed to rebuild a destroyed city. And if they can't do that in their own country, then it's obvious why they can't do it in Iraq. So ... I regret that we went to war with a country that has shown itself to be incapable of the very basic actions required to deal with post-conflict reconstruction.[1]

She has however always maintained that she does not regret voting for the war in Iraq, despite the casualties: "I could never have voted against getting rid of Saddam Hussein."[4]

Loss of 2005 election

The campaign was beset by tensions and scuffles. King said the fact that her mother was Jewish had come up repeatedly, "in a quite disturbing way. As a kid it was always 'oi, you nigger,' 'you wog' and all the rest of it, and now it was 'yids,' 'you Jewish bitch, get out of here,' all of that sort of stuff."[5]

Both she and Galloway requested police protection. Together with Galloway, she made a plea for calm and restraint amongst local people, though she said: "I have to say it has not been helped by some of the language used by Respect. Extremism breeds extremism." King said of Galloway, "What makes me sick is that when I come across someone who is guilty of genocide, I do not get on a plane and go to Baghdad and grovel at his feet." Galloway had responded to claims of racism by noting his concern about "the deaths of many people in Iraq with blacker faces than hers."[3].

King lost the seat by a narrow margin of 823 votes, overturning her majority of ten thousand and resulting in a 26.2% swing from King to Galloway.[6] A request for a recount by King and her agent was denied by the returning officer.

After the 2005 election

King had said that she would remain in Bethnal Green & Bow with her constituency office funded from the GMB trade union, attempting to act as an unofficial MP. However, she is now pursuing a career in the media, and has said: "I wanted to be an MP all my life, and when it didn't work, I thought, well then, I'll just have to go down a different path."[7] She continues to live in Mile End, in a converted pub.[8]

In 2007, King published her autobiography The Oona King Diaries: House Music[9].

In January 2009 King was appointed head of diversity at Channel 4.[10]


  • April 2006, essay for the BBC programme This Week:

    "Multiculturalism hasn't failed; it's a statement of fact. We live together, side by side in this country very well, and far better than most. But to neglect any community is a recipe for disaster. To ensure that disaster doesn't come in the shape of the BNP, then politicians must wake up to the concerns of the white working class. Fast."[12]


  • King's husband, Tiberio Santomarco whom she married in 1994, is from Italy and they have an adopted son named Elia
  • King also speaks Italian and French
  • King also presented parts on the Open University, W100 course (Intro to Law)
  • King is referenced in the rapper TY's track "Haha" which features on his album "Upwards"[13]
  • She has made appearances on television shows such as This Week, The Daily Politics, The All Star Talent Show on Five, and was a guest on Have I Got News For You

See also


  1. ^ a b Her first cousin is the actor Edmund Stoppard."The Emma Brockes interview: Oona King" "Guardian Unlimited" 12 September 2005
  2. ^ Hansard "Hansard" 1 July 1997
  3. ^ a b "Galloway's East End street fight", BBC News 6 May 2005
  4. ^ "The Five Minute Interview: Oona King", The Independent 5 June 2007
  5. ^ "Oona King denounces intimidation" "BBC News" 11 May 2005
  6. ^ "Result: Bethnal Green & Bow". BBC News: Election 2005 (BBC). 23 May 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/html/47.stm. Retrieved 28 May 2008.  
  7. ^ Odone, Cristina (23 November 2005). "'In Narnia, boys are brave and bossy, while girls cook and are pure of heart'". guardian.co.uk (Guardian News and Media). http://film.guardian.co.uk/narnia/story/0,,1661194,00.html. Retrieved 28 May 2008.  
  8. ^ Zafer-Smith, Golda (July 2008). "'Tea with Oona King'". Jewish Renaissance. http://www.jewishrenaissance.org.uk/Oona-King.pdf. Retrieved 23 November 2009.  
  9. ^ "The Oona King Diaries: House Music", Bloomsbury Publishing, accessed 10 October 2009
  10. ^ Matthew Hemley (9 January 2009). "King to be Channel 4’s head of diversity". The Stage. http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/23090/king-to-be-channel-4s-head-of-diversity. Retrieved 25 July 2009.  
  11. ^ "Personalities: Oona King". More4. Channel 4. http://www.channel4.com/more4/personalities/oonaking.html. Retrieved 28 May 2008.  
  12. ^ "Oona King". This Week (BBC). 21 April 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/this_week/4931568.stm. Retrieved 28 May 2008.  
  13. ^ Ty - HaHa on YouTube, accessed 10 October 2009

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow
Succeeded by
George Galloway


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