Yvette Cooper is a British Labour Party politician who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford since 1997 and is married to fellow Labour politician Ed Balls. On 29 November 2021, Keir Starmer appointed her Shadow Home Secretary.
Yvette Cooper served in the Cabinet between 2008 and 2010 under Prime Minister Gordon Brown as Chief Secretary to the Treasury and then as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Following the May 2010 General Election and the resignation of Gordon Brown as PM and leader of the Labour Party, Yvette Cooper turned down the opportunity to stand for election in favour of her husband Ed Balls' candidacy. The subsequent leadership election was won by Ed Miliband, who appointed her to the Shadow Cabinet first as Shadow Foreign Secretary and then as Shadow Home Secretary in January 2011.
Responding to reports in November 2014 that some Labour MPs were calling for Ed Miliband to step down as leader, Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary, said Miliband was on course to become an “innovative, reforming, radical” prime minister, as two others angrily dismissed suggestions that they had opened secret discussions on what they would do if Miliband stood down. Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, and Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, said the speculation in the Times was a lie. Burnham told Sky News:
- “The stories in today’s newspapers are complete and pure fiction. There is not a shred of truth in them. What I think it’s part of is a deliberate and desperate attempt to destabilise the Labour Party and to divide us. But I can say this: it won’t work. We are a united team, we are united behind Ed.”
A spokesman for Cooper said:
- “The spreading of lies like this only damages the Labour Party and should be seen as exactly what it is – complete and utter garbage.”
An article in the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror concluded that Ed Miliband should step aside in favour of Yvette Cooper:
- "Perhaps the news will soon move on and Ed will survive past May 2015. But if he becomes PM he'll have a torrid, torturous time he can't possibly enjoy. But it would be nicer - for him and for us - if enough Labour supporters who live on Planet Earth could tell Ed to step aside and let Yvette have a shot at it."
Ed Miliband's resignation after the 2015 General Election defeat prompted Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall to stand as candidates to succeed him as Labour party leader. On 19 July 2015, Yvette Cooper explained to BBC Sunday Politics viewers why they should vote for her to be leader of the Labour party.
Early life and education
Yvette Cooper was born in Inverness, Scotland. Her father was Tony Cooper, former General Secretary of the Prospect trade union, a member of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and a former Chairman of the British Nuclear Industry Forum. He was also a government adviser on the Energy Advisory Panel.
Yvette Cooper was educated at Eggar's School, a comprehensive school in Holybourne, and Alton College. She went on to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where she was awarded first class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. It was there that she became friends with her future colleague, James Purnell. She gained a Kennedy Scholarship in 1991 to study at Harvard University, and she eventually finished her studies with an MSc in Economics at the London School of Economics.
She began her career as an economic policy researcher for Shadow Chancellor John Smith in 1990, before spending time working in Arkansas for Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992. Later that year, she became a policy advisor to Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Harriet Harman and in 1994 moved to become a research associate at the Centre for Economic Performance. In 1995, she became the chief economic journalist|correspondent of The Independent until her election to Parliament.
Member of Parliament
She was selected to contest the safe Labour seat of Pontefract and Castleford at the 1997 General Election, after Deputy Speaker Geoffrey Lofthouse announced his retirement. She held the seat with a majority of 25,725, and made her maiden speech on 2 July 1997, speaking about her constituency's struggle with unemployment. She served for two years on the Education and Employment Select Committee.
In 1999, Yvette Cooper was promoted to become a 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 become a Minister of State.
Cooper was eventually promoted to become Minister for Housing in 2007, after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. Cooper was not formally a member of the Cabinet, but did attend Cabinet meetings. Shortly after taking the job, she was required to introduce the Home Information Pack Scheme (HIPS). According to Conservative columnist Matthew Parris, Cooper conceived HIPS but avoided direct criticism for its problems because of 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 that "...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 on 24 January 2008, Cooper became the first woman ever to serve as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. As her husband, Ed Balls, was already a Cabinet Minister, her promotion meant that the two became the first married couple ever to sit in the Cabinet together. In 2009, Cooper was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
After Labour left government in May 2010, Cooper and her husband Ed Balls were both mentioned in the press as a potential leadership candidates when Gordon Brown resigned as Leader of the Labour Party. Before Balls announced his candidacy, he offered to stand aside if Cooper wanted to stand, but Cooper declined for the sake of their children, stating that it would not be the right time for her. She later topped the 2010 ballot for places in the Shadow Cabinet, and there was speculation that the newly elected Labour Leader Ed Miliband would appoint her Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. She would instead be appointed Shadow Foreign Secretary. When Alan Johnson resigned as Shadow Chancellor on 20 January 2011, Cooper was moved to become the Shadow Home Secretary. Her husband, who had previously served in that role, moved to replace Johnson as Shadow Chancellor. Yvette Cooper is now Shadow Home Secretary.
Shadow Home Secretary
As a Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has spoken at the Labour Party Conference about the case regarding eastern Europeans who were mistreated by the migrant labour employers.
After Caroline Criado-Perez and several prominent women suffered a deluge of criminal threats (including rape threats) on Twitter, Cooper wrote to Tony Wang, the general manager of Twitter UK:
Despite the scale and seriousness of these threats, the official response from Twitter continues to be extremely weak – simply directing Caroline away from Twitter towards the police, and, belatedly, directing users to abuse-reporting forms on Twitter. Of course it is right to report such abuse to the police, and it is very important that they investigate and pursue this case. But social media platforms also have a responsibility for the platform they give users. And in particular they have a responsibility not to tolerate this kind of abuse, rape threats and potentially criminal behaviour. The response by Twitter has clearly been inadequate and fails not only Caroline but many more women and girls who have faced similar abuse on your social network. I urge you to go further and ensure that Twitter carries out a full review of all its policies on abusive behaviour, threats and crimes, including more help for Twitter users who experience abuse, a clear complaints process and clear action from Twitter to tackle this kind of persecution.
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 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 MPs' 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 money.
Cooper 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. In February 2013 she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.
- ↑ "Senior Labour MPs: Miliband leadership speculation is ‘utter garbage’"
- ↑ "What do we do about Ed Miliband?"
- ↑ "Devolution, UKIP and immigration: What happened when the Labour leadership hustings came to Cardiff"
- ↑ "Yvette Cooper: Vote for me because..."
- ↑ http://web.archive.org/web/20100928002851/http://www.yvettecooper.com/about-yvette
- ↑ http://web.archive.org/web/20090610003242/http://www.niauk.org/news/latest-nuclear-news/tony-cooper-is-new-chairman-of-bnif.html
- ↑ http://web.archive.org/web/20140302041032/http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/02/yvette-cooper-interview-labours-quiet-contender
- ↑ http://web.archive.org/web/20120716182344/http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199798/cmhansrd/vo970702/debtext/70702-39.htm#70702-39_spnew0
- ↑ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article1862784.ece
- ↑ http://web.archive.org/web/20090610235116/http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/8-million-investment
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/28/yvette-cooper-labour-leadership
- ↑ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7125955.ece
- ↑ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11484352
- ↑ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1316297/Yvette-Cooper-Ed-Balls-Shadow-Chancellor-job.html
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/27/labour-party-shadow-chancellor-race%7Cdate=27 September 2010
- ↑ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-party-conference-yvette-cooper-promises-to-crack-down-on-sweatshops-9753570.html
- ↑ Cited by Matthew Taylor and Ben Quinn "Man held after banknote campaigner receives rape threats on Twitter", The Guardian;, 28 July 2013
- ↑ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5325590/Ed-Balls-and-Yvette-Cooper-flipped-homes-three-times-MPs-expenses.html
- ↑ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1564016/Ed-Balls-claims-27000-subsidy-for-2nd-home.html
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2010/feb/04/mps-expenses-houseofcommons
- ↑ http://www.exacteditions.com/exact/browse/455/1210/7772/3/113
- ↑ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1338650/Health-minister-celebrates-birth.html
- ↑ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7642459.stm
- ↑ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007qlvb/features/power-list-100