Emma was born in Chelsea, the youngest of six children in an Anglo-Spanish family. She studied design and architectural history at the Royal College of Art. Spending most of her working life writing for design and architectural magazines, Emma specialised in 20th century social housing, planning and architecture. She has written four books and contributed to countless others.
When elected to parliament in 2017 she was half way through (now suspended) PhD research at Liverpool University School of Architecture, on architecture and political ideology under the Spanish dictator Franco, and continues to contribute on specialist subjects when time permits, with articles, lectures and academic seminars.
Emma’s interest in well-planned social housing extends across all housing tenures, where neighbourhoods can be improved by having all the everyday essentials within reasonable walking distance, such as convenience stores, green grocers or markets, post office, doctor, dentist, dispensing chemist, dry cleaners, schools and nurseries, parks, and decent transport links. All these amenities are suffering existential threat by the rising cost of rent and business rates, with high streets especially under pressure after the worst of the pandemic; our high streets need rethinking.
Emma was elected as a Labour Councillor in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in 2006, and since then has been Labour Group Leader, spokesperson for Planning, and sat on the Planning, Administration and Audit and Transparency Committees. She is very active in local politics, having helped to lead campaigns to save the South Kensington Post Office and Wornington College, continuing to press for the best outcome at the former Earls Court exhibition centre, and improving access and safety at South Ken station while avoiding over-development, among many others.
As the Member of Parliament for Kensington (June 2017- December 2019) Emma sat on the Work & Pensions Select Committee and served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Jon Trickett MP.
She was a member of the cross-house, cross-party committee working on draft legislation to demand registration of ‘overseas ownership of entities’ to counter money laundering by purchase of properties by anonymous overseas companies – a custom of hiding potentially dirty money to which Kensington and Chelsea has been heavily subjected. This was finally made law in August 2022.
Emma was vice-chair of the following All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs): London; Planning and the Built Environment; Fire Safety and Rescue; CND; and was an active member of APPGs relating to the Fire Services, Council Housing, Leasehold Reform.
From securing a Westminster Hall debate on Fire Safety to speaking out about the Earls Court Development and challenging the then Prime Minister on her response to Grenfell – Emma was dedicated to holding the Government to account as Kensington’s MP.
In just over two years, Emma helped to push through the Fitness of Human Habitation Bill, named and shamed rogue landlords while voting consistently to end privatisation in the NHS, end the hostile environment, reverse austerity and protect EU residents post-Brexit. Throughout her time as MP for Kensington, Emma completed over 11,000 pieces of casework, hosted regular surgeries and organised events with legal advice to help EU residents and Housing Association tenants. As Kensington’s first ever Labour MP, Emma worked around the clock to give the whole of Kensington a voice.
More recently, as Leader of K&C Labour Group, Emma campaigned for improved social care especially Home Care provision, supporting residents struggling with the cost of living crisis, and joined Architects for Labour, a group of built environment specialists who have been speaking to the Shadow Homes and Communities team.
In June 2022, working with former colleagues in parliament, she secured a back-bench debate on Grenfell, at which numerous MPs spoke passionately and well informed about the most recent progress, or lack of progress, on issues arising from the fire five years previously. The Secretary of State committed to hold a Grenfell debate in parliamentary time every year since then.
In April 2023, after 40 years and a great deal of heart-searching, Emma resigned from the Labour Party. Since then, almost every day she says she has good reason to confirm that decision. She continues her work as Independent Councillor in St Helen’s ward, and will stand as an Independent candidate in the upcoming General Election.