Jon Ashworth

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Person.png Jon Ashworth  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Jonathan Ashworth.jpg
BornJonathan Michael Graham Ashworth
14 October 1978
Alma materDurham University
Children • Gracie
• Annie
SpouseEmilie Oldknow
PartyLabour Co-op
Jonathan Ashworth confided in a Tory friend that Labour wasn't going to win the UK/2019 General Election. Keir Starmer kept him in his position.

Employment.png Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
29 November 2021 - Present
Appointed byKeir Starmer

Employment.png Member of Parliament for Leicester South

In office
5 May 2011 - Present

Jonathan Ashworth is a British Labour Party politician who, having served as Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care since 2016, was appointed Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary by Keir Starmer on 29 November 2021. He has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Leicester South since 2011.

Jon Ashworth worked as Special Adviser to Gordon Brown and head of party relations for Ed Miliband.[1] He was first elected at a by-election in 2011, following the resignation of his predecessor Peter Soulsby.

In October 2016, Jon Ashworth was appointed Shadow Health Secretary by party leader Jeremy Corbyn, shadowing Matt Hancock alongside the Shadow Social Care Minister Barbara Keeley.[2][3] In April 2020, Ashworth was reappointed to the position by new Labour leader Keir Starmer, gaining the additional portfolio of Social Care in England.

Political career

Labour Party officer: 2001–2004

Jon Ashworth began working for the Labour Party as a Political Research Officer in 2001, and was the Economics and Welfare Policy Officer from 2002 to 2004.[4] In 2003, he was seconded to the Scottish Labour Party to work on the 2003 Scottish Parliament election, where he worked closely with then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. Following the election, Scottish Labour remained the single-largest party at Holyrood and were re-elected, but the coalition with the Scottish Lib Dems remained in place.

Special adviser: 2004–2011

From 2004, he was appointed as Special Adviser to Treasury Chief Secretaries Paul Boateng, Des Browne and Stephen Timms, but in practice he worked for Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. His main job was liaising with the Labour movement and an Evening Standard profile said "his contact book was "stuffed with constituency officers and union organisers", and there was newspaper speculation that he would be Political Secretary at 10 Downing Street in a potential future Brown government.

When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in June 2007, Ashworth was appointed deputy Political Secretary with the role of linking the Government to the trade unions. There was speculation later that year that Ashworth might be selected to replace John Prescott as the official Labour candidate for Kingston upon Hull East although it came to nothing. Ashworth spent most of the 2008 Crewe and Nantwich by-election campaign in the constituency.

After the Labour Party were defeated at the 2010 General Election, Ashworth became Political Secretary to the acting party leader Harriet Harman. He did not publicly support any candidate in the subsequent leadership election because of his role working for Harriet Harman but he was described as a "key member" of Ed Miliband's team on the day after Miliband won the 2010 Labour Party leadership election. When Miliband was elected as Leader of the Labour Party, he asked Ashworth to join his office as Head of Party Relations.

Parliamentary candidate: 2011

With a General Election imminent, Ashworth was identified as someone who the Labour Party leadership wished to find a seat for. He was linked with a possible candidature in Mansfield should the sitting MP Alan Meale decide to stand down, but Meale decided to seek re-election despite widespread speculation he was to retire from Parliament. Ashworth was then identified as a potential candidate for Nottingham East when the sitting MP John Heppell retired, but the selection went to former MP Chris Leslie when the Labour National Executive Committee chose to impose Leslie at the last minute.

Ashworth sought selection in the Leicester South constituency in 2011 when the sitting MP Peter Soulsby decided to resign to seek election as Mayor of Leicester. He was immediately identified as the front-runner for the selection and was backed by the major trade unions including his own Unite, GMB and UNISON.

Ashworth was also endorsed by the Co-operative Party and is also a Co-operative Party MP. He was selected on the first ballot by the local party, and held the seat with an increased majority on 5 May 2011.

In opposition: 2011–present

Following the row over alleged undue influence of trade unions in the Falkirk constituency selection in 2013, Ashworth penned a piece for The Daily Telegraph claiming that it is ordinary people – not the unions – who choose Labour MPs.[5]

On 11 July 2013, Jon Ashworth replaced Tom Watson on the National Executive Committee.[6]

Jon Ashworth nominated Yvette Cooper to be Leader of the Labour Party following the resignation of Ed Miliband after the 2015 General Election.[7] He nominated Tom Watson as Deputy Leader.[8]

Following his election as Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn appointed Ashworth to the Shadow Cabinet role of Shadow Minister without Portfolio.[9] In December 2015, Ashworth voted against the resolution to authorise RAF bombing of ISIL in Syria.[10]

Jon Ashworth was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Health in October 2016. Following the UK/2017 General Election, he went on record to say a Labour government would not repeal the controversial Health and Social Care Act 2012 despite Labour's manifesto commitment to do so.[11]

On 10 December 2019, it emerged that Ashworth had told a friend that he did not believe Labour would win the UK/2019 General Election due to be held two days later. He said that this was largely due to the unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn and voters outside the cities blaming Labour for not delivering Brexit. His friend, who was a Conservative activist, leaked a recording of the conversation to the Guido Fawkes website. Ashworth later claimed that he was joking and just "joshing around".[12]

Jon Ashworth supported Lisa Nandy in the 2020 Labour Party leadership contest.[13] When Keir Starmer won the contest, he decided to keep Ashworth on as Shadow Health Secretary, extending his portfolio to include social care. Conservative Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock had recently praised Ashworth for his help devising government policy on the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic after the pandemic spread to the United Kingdom in January 2020.[14]

Personal life

Jon Ashworth became engaged to Emilie Oldknow, the East Midlands Regional Director for the Labour Party, in 2008.[15][16] She was the official Labour candidate for Sherwood at the 2010 General Election, but was not elected. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah attended the couple's wedding on 3 July 2010 in Derbyshire.[17] They have a daughter, Gracie, born in May 2011 shortly after his by-election victory,[18] and a second daughter, Annie.

On 12 April 2020, Emilie Oldknow was identified as one of the Labour Party's "Senior Management Team" who were engaged in undermining former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and working to ensure the party was defeated in the UK/2017 General Election.[19]

He remained Shadow Health Secretary when Keir Starmer became Leader of the Labour Party (UK).

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  1. "Labour candidate Ashworth promises to be a 'champion' for city if he wins by-election"
  2. "Shadow Cabinet The Labour Party"
  3. "Her Majesty's Official Opposition: The Shadow Cabinet"
  4. "Jon Ashworth MP BBC Democracy Live"
  5. "Labour's links to the trade unions? I'm proud of them"
  6. "Jonathan Ashworth to replace Tom Watson on Labour's NEC"
  7. "Jon Ashworth backs Yvette Cooper over city neighbour Liz Kendall in Labour leadership race"
  8. "Who nominated who in the 2015 Labour deputy leadership election?"
  9. "Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth becomes Jeremy Corbyn's shadow minister without portfolio"
  10. "Jon Ashworth the only MP from Leicester and Leicestershire to vote against Syria air strikes"
  11. "Labour Will not Roll Back Health and Social Care Act – Healthcare Times"
  12. "General election 2019: Jonathan Ashworth apologises after Corbyn criticism leak"
  13. "Here are the 23 MPs backing Wigan's Lisa Nandy in the Labour Party leadership contest"
  14. "Keir Starmer's new Labour shadow cabinet unveiled - with Corbyn allies out"
  15. "Fresh blow for Labour as senior official dubbed 'brains of the party' quits"
  16. "Here's Emilie Oldknow, Jon Ashworth's wife attempting to block the Chakrabarti Report going on the then new Labour"
  17. Guest Appearance". The Sunday Telegraph. London. 4 July 2010
  18. "Oh baby! Joy for city's new MP as Gracie born"
  19. "‘It’s going to be a long night’ – How Members of Labour’s Senior Management Team Campaigned to Lose"
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