Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Thangam has been the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, since September 2023.
She believes that culture, media, and sport give us so much joy and a feeling of togetherness. They inform us of what is happening around us playing an important role in our great democratic tradition, one which she is proud to be a part of. They also make a massive contribution to the taxes which fund our public services.
Under the next Labour government, Thangam sees it as her role to value the contributions made by artists to society and the economy. She looks forward to supporting organisations in the face of evolving consumer preferences and the transition to net zero. Most of all, she seek to leverage our world-beating cultural, sports and tourism sectors to grow the UK’s economy, creating more jobs and opportunities across the country.
Despite a busy schedule in Parliament, Thangam’s main focus is representing the people who live in her constituency of Bristol West. With 140,000 inhabitants this is one of the largest constituencies in the country, comprising some of the richest and most deprived wards in the South West.
Thangam and her caseworkers take on a wide range of people’s problems, including underpaid benefits, missing immigration applications and housing problems.
She has long championed environmental concerns and has worked with local organisations to push for a rapid reduction in carbon emissions. She has also worked extensively on refugee policy, previously chairing the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees.
Through the pandemic she has worked to support hundreds of Bristol businesses worst-affected by the coronavirus restrictions, including Bristol’s important hospitality and arts companies. She also helped people get the support they needed and pushed for IT equipment for disadvantaged school pupils.
Thangam continues to campaign for fair funding for schools, good quality housing and an end to inequality in Bristol and beyond.
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons (May 2021 – August 2023)
In this role Thangam was responsible for scrutinising the government’s parliamentary agenda and ensuring the effective running of parliament.
In May 2023, one year on from the Queen’s speech she challenged the government on Rishi Sunak’s broken legislative promises. At the time of her speech, the government had failed to pass 29 of the 51 laws they had proposed in the Queen’s speech.
While she was Shadow Leader of the House, Thangam used her weekly speech to hold the government accountable to how they it was using time in Parliament to address the issues that mattered most to working people.
Leading Labour’s housing policy (April 2020 – May 2021)
During this period, Thangam held the position of Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Homelessness. In this role she campaigned to help people through the pandemic, pushing the Tory government to extend a ban on evictions and to help rough sleepers off the streets.
During this year, Thangam also led Labour’s campaign to fix dangerous cladding and other fire safety defects affecting thousands of people up and down the country. As a result of these efforts, the government agreed to £3.5 billion of funding to fix many high-rise buildings. There are still gaps, however, so she continues to campaign for constituents on these matters.
Other front bench roles
Thangam was Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport between January 2016 and June 2016. In October 2016 she she was appointed a Labour Whip, a role she held until early 2020.
From January to April 2020 Thangam was Shadow Minister for the Department for Exiting the European Union.
Thangam became the Labour Member of Parliament for the Bristol West constituency in May 2015, overturning a Liberal Democrat majority of 11,366. She won the seat again in May 2017 and the December 2019 elections, the latter with a vote of 47,028 – the highest of any constituency in the UK.
Previous career and personal life
Thangam Debbonaire has lived in the Bristol West constituency since 1991. She started out as a professional cellist, but for 25 years before becoming an MP her main focus was working to end domestic violence.
She was Women’s Aid’s first ever National Children’s Officer, setting up support projects in refuges across the UK for children. In this work she helped everyone involved in the cycle of domestic violence: women, men and children; victims, perpetrators and witnesses.