ENG: Yvette Cooper (born 20 March 1969) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford since 2010, having previously been MP for Pontefract and Castleford since 1997. She served in the Cabinet between 2008 and 2010. She is the Shadow Home Secretary. Cooper is married to Ed Balls, and they were the first married couple to serve together in the British cabinet.
Born in Inverness, her father is Tony Cooper, former General Secretary of the Union Prospect, a member of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and a former Chairman of the British Nuclear Industry Forum. He was appointed to the government's Energy Advisory Panel by the Conservatives and has been described by the Nuclear Industry Association as an "articulate, persuasive and well-informed advocate of nuclear power".
She was educated at the comprehensive Eggar's School on London Road in Holybourne near Alton and Alton College. She studied at Balliol College, Oxford where she was awarded first class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
It was there she met her future colleagues, including James Purnell and Ed Miliband. She gained a Kennedy Scholarship in 1991 to Harvard University and finished her studies with an MSc in Economics at the London School of Economics.
Personal life and family
She married Ed Balls on 10 January 1998 in Eastbourne. Her husband is the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and was a former leadership candidate. They have two daughters and one son. Cooper and Balls were the first married couple to serve together in the British cabinet.
She began her career as an economics researcher to the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John Smith MP in 1990 before becoming a domestic policy specialist, working in Arkansas, for the United States Democratic Party presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.
Later in the year she became a policy advisor to the new Shadow Chief Secretary to The Treasury (Harriet Harman MP) who was deputy to the new Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown MP and in 1994 found herself working as a research associate for the Centre for Economic Performance. In 1995 she became the economic correspondent with The Independent until her election to Westminster.
Member of Parliament
She was selected at a very late stage in April 1997 to contest the safe Labour seat of Pontefract and Castleford at the 1997 general election on the retirement of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons Geoff Lofthouse. She held the seat very comfortably with a majority of 25,725 and she has held the seat easily since. She spoke of her constituency's struggle with unemployment in her maiden speech on 2 July 1997. Yvette Cooper rose rapidly in parliament, after two years on the Education and Employment Select Committee.
In 1999, she became a member of the Labour government as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, and in 2003 moved to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
After the 2005 general election, she was promoted within the same department to Minister of State, which has subsequently become the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Cooper was promoted to Housing Minister on 28 June 2007 when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. Cooper did not have cabinet rank but attended cabinet meetings, having to introduce the HIPS scheme into the public eye following her promotion. According to Conservative columnist Matthew Parris, Cooper conceived HIPS but avoided direct criticism for its problems thanks to her connection with Brown.
The Labour government under Brown had identified affordable housing as one of its core objectives. In July 2007, Cooper told Parliament: "Unless we act now, by 2026 first time buyers will find average house prices are ten times their salary. That could lead to real social inequality and injustice.
Every part of the country needs more affordable homes — in the North and the South, in urban and rural communities".
In the reshuffle following Peter Hain's resignation as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 24 January 2008, Cooper became the first woman to be promoted to Chief Secretary to the Treasury. As husband Ed Balls was already a cabinet minister, her promotion to the cabinet meant that they were the first married couple to serve as cabinet ministers simultaneously. After a number of ministerial resignations, including James Purnell, Cooper was moved within the cabinet by Gordon Brown on 5 June 2009 to become Secretary of State for Work and Pensions as part of his reshuffle.
Allegations over allowances
In May 2009, it was revealed that together with her husband they 'flipped' the designation of their second home three times in a 24-month period, despite being warned several times by expenses officials that their claims were duplicated or inaccurate. Yvette Cooper and her husband, Labour minister Ed Balls, bought a four-bedroom house in Stoke Newington, north London, and registered this as their second home (rather than their home in Castleford, West Yorkshire) this qualified them for up to £44,000 a year to subsidise a reported £438,000 mortgage under the Commons Additional Costs Allowance, of which they claimed £24,400. An investigation in MP's expenses by Sir Thomas Legg found that Cooper and her husband had both received overpayments of £1,363 in relation to their mortgage.
He ordered them to repay the monies.
2010 Labour leadership election
Cooper and her husband Ed Balls were both mentioned in the press as a potential leadership candidates when Gordon Brown stepped down as Labour leader. Before Balls announced his candidacy, he offered to stand aside if Cooper wanted to stand, but because of her young children Cooper decided it was not the right time for her. She came top in the 2010 ballot for places in the Shadow Cabinet and there was speculation that Ed Miliband would appoint her Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, however she was later appointed Shadow Foreign Secretary instead.
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Cooper became Shadow Foreign Secretary after Ed Miliband became Leader of the Labour Party.
Shadow Home Secretary
When Alan Johnson resigned as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer on 20 January 2011, Cooper became Shadow Home Secretary in the subsequent reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet. Her husband Ed Balls, who had served in that role, became Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.. She was replaced as Shadow Foreign Secretary by Douglas Alexander, who had previously replaced her as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.