Yvette Cooper
Official portrait of Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2019
Shadow Home Secretary
Assumed office
29 November 2021
LeaderKeir Starmer
Preceded byNick Thomas-Symonds
In office
20 January 2011 – 12 September 2015
Leader
Preceded byEd Balls
Succeeded byAndy Burnham
Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee
In office
19 October 2016 – 1 December 2021
Preceded byTim Loughton (acting)
Succeeded byTim Loughton (acting)
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In office
5 June 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byJames Purnell
Succeeded byIain Duncan Smith
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
24 January 2008 – 5 June 2009
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byAndy Burnham
Succeeded byLiam Byrne
Minister of State for Housing and Planning
In office
10 May 2005 – 24 January 2008
Prime Minister
Preceded byKeith Hill
Succeeded byCaroline Flint
Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities
In office
11 May 2010 – 7 October 2013
Leader
Preceded byTheresa May
Succeeded byGloria De Piero
Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
8 October 2010 – 20 January 2011
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byDavid Miliband
Succeeded byDouglas Alexander
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In office
11 May 2010 – 8 October 2010
LeaderHarriet Harman (acting)
Preceded byTheresa May
Succeeded byDouglas Alexander
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Regeneration and Regional Development
In office
13 June 2003 – 10 May 2005
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byChris Leslie
Succeeded byThe Baroness Andrews
Parliamentary Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department
In office
29 May 2002 – 12 June 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byMichael Wills
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health
In office
11 October 1999 – 28 May 2002
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byTessa Jowell
Succeeded byDavid Lammy
Member of Parliament
for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford
Pontefract and Castleford (1997–2010)
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded byGeoffrey Lofthouse
Majority1,276 (2.6%)
Personal details
Born (1969-03-20) 20 March 1969 (age 53)
Inverness, Scotland
NationalityBritish
Political partyLabour
Spouse
(m. 1998)
Children3
ParentTony Cooper (father)
Education
WebsiteOfficial website

Yvette Cooper (born 20 March 1969) is a British politician serving as Shadow Home Secretary since 2021, and previously from 2011 to 2015. She served in Gordon Brown's Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2008 to 2009 and Work and Pensions Secretary from 2009 to 2010. A member of the Labour Party, she has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, previously Pontefract and Castleford, since 1997.

One of 101 female Labour MPs elected at the 1997 general election, Cooper was a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at three departments under Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1999 to 2005. She was promoted to Minister of State for Housing and Planning in 2005, and was retained in the role when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007. In 2008, she was appointed to Brown's Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, before being promoted to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in 2009. After Labour lost the 2010 general election, Cooper served in Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2010 to 2011. In 2011, her husband Ed Balls was promoted to Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer; Cooper replaced Balls as Shadow Home Secretary and served until Labour lost the 2015 general election.

On 13 May 2015, Cooper announced she would run to be Leader of the Labour Party in the leadership election following the resignation of Miliband.[1] Cooper came third with 17.0% of the vote in the first round, losing to Jeremy Corbyn.[2] Cooper subsequently resigned as Shadow Home Secretary in September 2015. Cooper was the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee from 2016 to 2021.[3] As a backbencher, Cooper repeatedly sought to extend Article 50 to delay Brexit. She became Shadow Home Secretary again in Keir Starmer’s November 2021 reshuffle.

Early life and education

Cooper was born on 20 March 1969 in Inverness, Scotland. Her father is Tony Cooper, former General Secretary of the Prospect trade union, a former non-executive director of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and a former Chairman of the British Nuclear Industry Forum.[4] He was also a government adviser on the Energy Advisory Panel.[5] Her mother, June, was a maths teacher.[6]

She was educated at Eggar's School, a comprehensive school in Holybourne, and Alton College, both in Alton, Hampshire. She read Philosophy, politics and economics at Balliol College, Oxford, and graduated with a first-class honours degree.[7] She won a Kennedy Scholarship in 1991 to study at Harvard University, and she completed her postgraduate studies with an MSc in Economics at the London School of Economics.[8]

Early career

Cooper began her career as an economic policy researcher for Shadow Chancellor John Smith in 1990 before working in Arkansas for Bill Clinton, nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States, in 1992. Later that year, she became a policy advisor to then Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Harriet Harman.[7]

At the age of 24, Cooper developed chronic fatigue syndrome, which took her a year to recover from.[6] In 1994 she moved to become a research associate at the Centre for Economic Performance. In 1995, she became the chief economics correspondent of The Independent, remaining with the newspaper until her election to the House of Commons in 1997.[7]

Member of Parliament

Cooper 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 retained the seat for Labour with a majority of 25,725 votes, and made her maiden speech in the Commons on 2 July 1997, speaking about her constituency's struggle with unemployment.[9] She served for two years on the Education and Employment Select Committee.

Blair and Brown government: 1999–2010

In 1999, she was promoted as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health. As a health minister, Cooper helped implement the Sure Start programme.[10] In this post, she was also the first British government minister in history to take maternity leave.[11] From 2002 to 2003, Cooper was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department.

In 2003, she became Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regeneration in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister with the responsibility of coalfield regeneration.[12] Following the 2005 general election she was promoted to Minister, as Minister of State for Housing and Planning based in the Department for Communities and Local Government from 2006.[13]

After Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, Cooper was invited to attend cabinet meetings as Housing Minister. Shortly after taking the job, she was required to introduce the HIPS scheme. According to Conservative columnist Matthew Parris, Cooper conceived HIPS but avoided direct criticism for its problems because of her connection with Brown.[14]

Cooper as Minister for Housing in 2007
Cooper as Minister for Housing in 2007

The Labour government under Brown had identified affordable housing as one of its core objectives. In July 2007, Cooper announced in the House of Commons 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".[15]

In 2008, Cooper became the first woman to serve as Chief Secretary to the Treasury where she was involved with taking Northern Rock into public ownership. 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.[16]

In 2009, Cooper was appointed as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and took over leading on the Welfare Reform Act 2009 which included measures to extend the use of benefit sanctions to force unemployed people to seek work.[17] Many campaigners – including the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) – urged Cooper to rethink Labour's approach, arguing instead that increasing support for job seekers was vital to eradicating child poverty.[18][19]

Allegations over expenses

Main article: United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal

In May 2009, the Daily Telegraph reported that Cooper had changed the designation of her second home twice in two years. Following a referral to the parliamentary standards watchdog, Cooper and her husband Ed Balls were exonerated by John Lyon, the Standards Commissioner. He said they had paid capital gains tax on their homes and were not motivated by profit.[20] Cooper and 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.[21] 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.[22]

Miliband Shadow Cabinet: 2010–2015

Main article: Shadow Cabinet of Ed Miliband

After Labour were defeated at the 2010 general election, 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.[23][24] 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.[25][26] She instead became Shadow Foreign Secretary.

When Alan Johnson resigned as Shadow Chancellor on 20 January 2011, Cooper was appointed Shadow Home Secretary. Her husband, Ed Balls, replaced Johnson as Shadow Chancellor. Cooper also served as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities from October 2010 to October 2013.[13]

Shadow Home Secretary: 2011–2015

On 20 January 2011, she took the position of Shadow Home Secretary amidst a shadow cabinet reshuffle.[27] In this position, Cooper shadowed Theresa May at the Home Office. She labelled the government's vans displaying posters urging illegal immigrants to go home a "divisive gimmick" in October 2013.[28]

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, although not in the top 20.[29]

In 2013, she proposed the appointment of a national commissioner for domestic and sexual violence.[30] She spoke at the Labour Party Conference in 2014 about eastern Europeans who were mistreated by employers of migrant labour.[31]

Cooper was strongly critical of the cuts to child tax credit announced by George Osborne in the July 2015 Budget; she authored the following statement in the New Statesman:

And remember David Cameron's pre-election pledge that child tax credit is "not going to fall." It was a lie. This is a shameful betrayal of parents working hard to support their kids and get on in life. In the twenty-first century working parents shouldn't have to go to food banks to put a hot meal on the table, as too many families now do.[32]

2015 Labour leadership election

Main article: 2015 Labour Party leadership election (UK)

Cooper speaking at the 2016 Labour Party Conference
Cooper speaking at the 2016 Labour Party Conference

In 2015, she was nominated as one of four candidates for the Labour leadership following the party's defeat at the 2015 general election and the resignation of Ed Miliband. Cooper was nominated by 59 MPs, 12 MEPs, 109 CLPs, two affiliated trade unions and one socialist society.[33][34][35] The Guardian newspaper endorsed Cooper as the "best placed" to offer a strong vision and unite the party while the New Statesman's endorsement praised her experience.[36][37] Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly endorsed Cooper as his first choice for leader, as did former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.[38][39]

During the campaign, Cooper supported reintroducing the 50p income tax rate and creating more high-skilled manufacturing jobs. She proposed the introduction of a living wage for social care workers and the construction of 300,000 houses every year. Cooper disagreed that Labour spent too much whilst in government.[40]

Candidate[41] Party members Registered supporters Affiliated supporters Total[2]
Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes %
Jeremy Corbyn Green tickY 121,751 49.6 88,449 83.8 41,217 57.6 251,417
59.5
Andy Burnham 55,698 22.7 6,160 5.8 18,604 26.0 80,462
19.0
Yvette Cooper 54,470 22.2 8,415 8.0 9,043 12.6 71,928
17.0
Liz Kendall 13,601 5.5 2,574 2.4 2,682 3.8 18,857
4.5

Backbencher: 2015–2021

Following the 2015 Labour Party leadership election, Cooper returned to the backbenches, after nearly seventeen years on the frontbench.[42] Building on her existing work on the European refugee crisis, Cooper was appointed chair of Labour's refugee taskforce, working with local authorities, community groups and trade unions to develop a sustainable and humanitarian response to the crisis.[43][44] She spoke about the issue at Labour's annual conference in 2016.[45]

She supported Owen Smith against Jeremy Corbyn in the 2016 leadership election.[46]

After a vote of MPs on 19 October 2016, Cooper was elected chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, gaining more votes than fellow candidates, Caroline Flint, Chuka Umunna and Paul Flynn.[3] As chair, Cooper launched a national inquiry into public views on immigration[47] and, after an emergency inquiry into the Dubs scheme for child refugees, criticised the government's decision to end the programme in February 2017.[48][49]

Cooper was critical of the May government's infrastructure plans' focus on big cities, and was formerly the chair of Labour Towns, a group of Labour MPs, councillors and mayors of towns seeking to promote investment in them – publishing a town manifesto in 2019.[50][51]

She is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[52]

Brexit

Main article: European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019

During the Brexit process, Cooper consistently fought against a no-deal Brexit, tabling one of the main amendments in January 2019; others to table amendments were Caroline Spelman, Graham Brady, Rachel Reeves, Dominic Grieve and Ian Blackford.[53]

In April, Cooper tabled a private members' bill, again with the intended effect of preventing a "no-deal" Brexit.[54] The Bill was voted to be discussed as an important bill using processes often used for issues of national security. MPs voted 312 to 311 in favour of allowing her bill to be fast-tracked, and it was made law on 8 April 2019.[citation needed]

Starmer Shadow Cabinet: 2021–present

Main article: Shadow Cabinet of Keir Starmer

Cooper was reappointed as Shadow Home Secretary on 29 November 2021 by Keir Starmer, replacing Nick Thomas-Symonds in a shadow cabinet reshuffle.

Cooper is concerned over Home Secretary, Suella Braverman breaching the ministerial code through sending secure information with her private email. Cooper wants possible security implications investigated. Cooper wrote to Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case "I am urging you and the Home Office to now urgently undertake such an investigation [into possible security breaches] as the public has a right to know that there are proper secure information procedures in place to cover the person who has been given charge of our national security.[55][56]

Personal life

Cooper married Ed Balls on 10 January 1998[57] in Eastbourne. Her husband was Economic Secretary to the Treasury in the Tony Blair government and Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families under Gordon Brown, then in opposition was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and a candidate in the 2010 Labour Party leadership election. The couple have two daughters and one son.[58]

Cooper has published two books, entitled She Speaks: The power of Women's voices and She Speaks: Women's Speeches That Changed the World, from Pankhurst to Greta, released in November 2019 and October 2020 respectively.[59][60]

References

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Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byGeoffrey Lofthouse Member of Parliamentfor Pontefract and Castleford 19972010 Constituency abolished New constituency Member of Parliamentfor Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford 2010–present Incumbent Political offices Preceded byKeith Hill Minister of State for Housing and Planning 2005–2008 Succeeded byCaroline Flint Preceded byAndy Burnham Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2008–2009 Succeeded byLiam Byrne Preceded byJames Purnell Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 2009–2010 Succeeded byIain Duncan Smith Preceded byTheresa May Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 2010 Succeeded byDouglas Alexander Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities 2010–2013 Succeeded byGloria De Piero Preceded byDavid Miliband Shadow Foreign Secretary 2010–2011 Succeeded byDouglas Alexander Preceded byEd Balls Shadow Home Secretary 2011–2015 Succeeded byAndy Burnham