Emily Thornberry fears coronavirus will badly impact austerity-hit Islington

Emily Thornberry MP. Picture: Polly Hancock

Emily Thornberry MP. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Emily Thornberry is worried about the impact coronavirus could have on Islington because it is “one of the borough’s hardest hit by austerity”.

The Islington South and Finsbury MP was knocked out of the Labour leadership race last month but says she wants to continue as shadow foreign secretary - and won't be publicly backing any of the three remaining candidates vying to replace Jeremy Corbyn.

She told the Gazette: 'For a government that's dominated by Brexiteers who just a few years ago were saying: 'We have had enough of experts', I'm glad to see they haven't continued with that thinking and are being led by experts, because that's exactly what experts are for. So as long as they are staying sensible and taking the advice that's the only way forward.'

Ms Thornberry added: 'We are one of the borough's hardest hit by austerity so I worry about the impact of coronavirus on a community like ours that has already lost so many services. You look at that budget [delivered by chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday] and although they have splashed a lot of cash about, I don't know how much of that will support a borough like ours that has always been hard hit by the cuts.'

Islington Council has lost about 70 per cent of its core government funding since 2010.

She's also wary of what impact closing services could have on the borough, saying Whittington Hospital workers with kids may have to take time off if schools are closed. The government has so far resisted calls to close schools.

She was yesterday awaiting the latest advice from government and the council about large gatherings and couldn't say if her surgery on Saturday would definitely go ahead.

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The MP just missed out on making it through to the final ballot for the Labour leadership last month, which is now a three-way race between Rebecca Long-Bailey, Sir Keir Starmer or Lisa Nandy. The winner will be announced on April 4.

Reflecting on her campaign, Ms Thornberry added: 'It has been amazing because I went from the general election straight into the leadership contest and I had Christmas Day and Boxing Day off but otherwise worked full out.'

Ms Thornberry, who recently returned from a post-leadership bid holiday to Sardinia, added: 'I think the truth is that life is always busy, so carrying the foreign affairs brief there is always a great deal going on and that does keep me occupied, and also representing Islington.

'It's always fairly full on, so I took a bit of time out and now I'm very much back into representing my constituents to the best of my ability, and leading from the front for the Labour Party on foreign affairs.'

Asked what went wrong with her bid, she said: 'I put myself forward and it's a matter for the party really, and what they decided was the best way forward. It looked like a fairly major part of the debate was [about] where someone came from or what their position on Brexit was. But I did my best and would have liked to have gone further.'

On who should succeed Mr Corbyn, she added: 'I have always made it clear that I didn't think it was right for me to back a particular candidate because I think it's a matter for the party to decide and my position is I would be supportive and do my best to help whoever it is that's actually elected. [...]

'I'm one of the longest serving shadow foreign secretaries there has been and I'm more than happy to carry on doing it. Over nearly four years I have build up strong connections internationally and would like to continue doing so, but it would be a matter for whoever becomes leader.'