Yvette Cooper

The Right Honourable
Yvette Cooper
Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee
Assumed office
19 October 2016
Preceded by Tim Loughton (Acting)
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
20 January 2011  12 September 2015
Leader Ed Miliband
Harriet Harman (Acting)
Preceded by Ed Balls
Succeeded by Andy Burnham
Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
8 October 2010  20 January 2011
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by David Miliband
Succeeded by Douglas Alexander
Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities
In office
11 May 2010  7 October 2013
Leader Harriet Harman (Acting)
Ed Miliband
Preceded by Theresa May
Succeeded by Gloria De Piero
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In office
11 May 2010  8 October 2010
Leader Harriet Harman (Acting)
Ed Miliband
Preceded by Theresa May
Succeeded by Douglas Alexander
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In office
5 June 2009  11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by James Purnell
Succeeded by Iain Duncan Smith
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
24 January 2008  5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Chancellor Alistair Darling
Preceded by Andy Burnham
Succeeded by Liam Byrne
Minister of State for Housing and Planning
In office
10 May 2005  24 January 2008
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded by Keith Hill
Succeeded by Caroline Flint
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Regeneration and Regional Development
In office
13 June 2003  10 May 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Chris Leslie
Succeeded by Kay Andrews
Parliamentary Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department
In office
29 May 2002  13 June 2003
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Michael Wills
Succeeded by Position abolished
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health
In office
11 October 1999  28 May 2002
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Tessa Jowell (Minister of State)
Succeeded by David Lammy
Member of Parliament
for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford
Pontefract and Castleford (1997–2010)
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Geoff Lofthouse
Majority 14,499 (29.5%)
Personal details
Born (1969-03-20) 20 March 1969
Inverness, Scotland
Political party Labour
Ed Balls (m. 1998)
Children 3
Parents Tony Cooper (father)
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Harvard University
London School of Economics

Yvette Cooper MP (born 20 March 1969) is a Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford since 2010, having served as the MP for Pontefract and Castleford since 1997.

She 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. After Labour lost the 2010 general election, Cooper was appointed as Shadow Foreign Secretary, then became Shadow Home Secretary in 2011.

On 13 May 2015, Cooper announced she would run to be Leader of the Labour Party in the leadership election following the resignation of Ed Miliband.[1] Cooper came third with 17.0% of the vote in the first round.[2] Cooper subsequently resigned as Shadow Home Secretary in September 2015. In October 2016, Cooper was elected chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.[3]

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 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.

Early career

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

At the age of 24, Cooper developed chronic fatigue syndrome, which took 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 economic 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 Geoff 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.[8] She served for two years on the Education and Employment Select Committee.

In government

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.[9] In 2003, she became Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regeneration in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. After the 2005 general election she was promoted to Housing and Planning Minister, based in the Department for Communities and Local Government from 2006.[10]

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.[11]

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".[12]

In 2008, Cooper became the first woman 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 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.[13] 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.[14] [15]

Allegations over allowances

In May 2009, it was revealed that together with her husband Ed Balls they changed the designation of their second home three times in a 24-month period. Following a referral to the parliamentary sleaze watchdog, they were exonerated by John Lyon, the Standards Commissioner. He said that they had paid capital gains tax on their homes and were not motivated by profit.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

Shadow Cabinet

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.[19][20] 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.[21][22][23] 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.[10]

Shadow Home Secretary

As Shadow Home Secretary, Cooper shadowed Theresa May at the Home Office. She labelled the government's immigration vans urging illegal immigrant to go home a "divisive gimmick" in October 2013.[24]

In 2013, she proposed a new national commissioner for domestic and sexual violence.[25] She spoke at the Labour Party Conference in 2014 about eastern Europeans who were mistreated by employers of migrant labour.[26]

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:

2015 Labour leadership election

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 officially nominated by 59 MPs, 12 MEPs, 109 CLPs, two affiliated trade unions and one socialist society.[28][29][30] 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.[31][32] Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly endorsed Cooper as his first choice for leader, as did former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.[33][34]

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.[35]

Cooper finished in third place, securing 71,928 votes or 17.0% in the first round, compared to 59.5% for the winning candidate, Jeremy Corbyn.[2]


After the 2015 Labour Party leadership election, Cooper returned to the backbenches, after nearly seventeen years on the frontbench.[36] 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.[37][38] She spoke about the issue at Labour's annual conference in 2016.[39]

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,[40] and after an emergency inquiry into the Dubs scheme for child refugees, criticised the government's decision to end the programme in February 2017.[41][42]

Personal life

Cooper married Ed Balls on 10 January 1998[43] in Eastbourne. Her husband was the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and a candidate in the 2010 Labour Party leadership election. The couple have two daughters and one son,[44] all of whom are entitled to free admission at Harvard University. Cooper and Balls were the first married couple to serve together in the British cabinet.[45] 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.[46]


  1. Association, Press. "Yvette Cooper announces candidacy for Labour leadership". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  2. 1 2 "Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest". BBC News. 12 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  3. 1 2 "Yvette Cooper elected Chair of Home Affairs Committee". UK Parliament. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  4. "Yvette Cooper Official website". Yvettecooper.com. 20 February 2009. Archived from the original on 28 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  5. "Tony Cooper is new Chairman of BNIF". Nuclear Industry Association. 28 June 2002. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009.
  6. 1 2 Libby Brooks (13 August 2015). "Yvette Cooper profile: 'You don't have to choose between head and heart'". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  7. 1 2 3 Rachel Cooke (1 March 2014). "Yvette Cooper interview: Labour's quiet contender". Archived from the original on 2 March 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  8. "House of Commons Debates 2 July 1997 col 387–91". Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  9. "Yvette Cooper appeals to family vote with childcare pledge". The Independent. 25 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  10. 1 2 "Rt Hon Yvette Cooper". UK Parliament. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  11. Parris, Matthew (31 May 2007). "Why heroic Ruth should have been in Gordon's book". The Times. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011.
  12. "£8 Billion investment and reforms announced to tackle housing shortages" (Press release). Department for Communities and Local Government. 23 July 2007. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  13. "Welfare Reform Act 2009 – a quick guide | Child Poverty Action Group". www.cpag.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  14. "CPAG urges Yvette Cooper to change tack on welfare reform | Community Care". www.communitycare.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  15. "Welfare bill won't reduce poverty | Letters". the Guardian. 2009-06-12. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  16. Prince, Rosa (15 May 2009). "Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper 'flipped' homes three times: MPs' expenses". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  17. Hope, Christopher (24 September 2007). "Ed Balls claims £27,000 subsidy for 2nd home". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 1 April 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  18. Sparrow, Andrew (4 February 2010). "MPs' expenses – the day's events as they happened". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 6 February 2010.
  19. "Yvette Cooper: Why I'm not standing for Labour leader – this time". The Guardian. London. 28 May 2010. Archived from the original on 30 May 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
  20. Baldwin, Tom (14 May 2010). "Ed Balls offered to give up leadership bid in favour of his wife". The Times. London.
  21. "Cooper tops shadow cabinet vote". BBC News. 7 October 2010. Archived from the original on 7 October 2010.
  22. Groves, Jason (30 September 2010). "After brothers at war, now Mr & Mrs Balls fight for the same job as both go for Shadow Chancellor prize". Daily Mail. London. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  23. Clark, Tom (27 September 2010). "Shadow chancellor: the Labour party runners and riders". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  24. "Government 'go home' vans banned for 'misleading' public". Channel 4 News. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  25. "Yvette Cooper interview: 'I just want to be the next Home Secretary'". The Independent. 22 September 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  26. Nigel Morris (24 September 2014). "Labour Party conference: Yvette Cooper promises to crack down on sweatshops". The Independent. Archived from the original on 24 September 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  27. Wilby, Peter (8 July 2015). "Once again, the biggest losers from George Osborne's budget are women". New Statesman. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  28. "Who nominated who for the 2015 Labour leadership election?". New Statesman. 15 June 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  29. "Which CLPs nominated who in the 2015 Labour leadership contest?". New Statesman. 1 August 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  30. "Which unions have backed Corbyn or Smith in the Labour leadership contest?". LabourList. 11 August 2016. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  31. "The Guardian view on Labour's choice: Corbyn has shaped the campaign, but Cooper can shape the future". The Guardian. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  32. "The NS Leader: the choice before Labour". New Statesman. 19 August 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  33. Kunal Dutta (25 August 2015). "Gordon Brown endorses Yvette Cooper for Labour leader as Andy Burnham warns wrong choice could bring 'two decades of the Tories'". The Independent. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  34. Waugh, Paul (3 August 2015). "Alan Johnson To Back Yvette Cooper For Labour Leader". HuffPost. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  35. "What are Yvette Cooper's policies?".
  36. Wintour, Patrick (15 September 2015). "Yvette Cooper to focus attention on response to refugee crisis". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  37. Walker, Peter (16 September 2015). "Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet in full". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  38. "Labour's Refugee Taskforce". Yvette Cooper. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  39. "Yvette's speech to Labour Annual Conference 2016". Yvette Cooper. 29 September 2016. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  40. Stewart, Heather; Asthana, Anushka (2 February 2017). "Yvette Cooper calls for national debate on immigration as she launches inquiry". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  41. Elgot, Jessica (20 February 2017). "MPs warn over child refugees sleeping rough after Dubs scheme closure". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  42. Jackson, Jasper (5 March 2017). "Home Office decision to end Dubs scheme 'not backed by evidence'". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  43. Debrett's People of Today 2011 (Extract Editions ed.). 2011. p. 77. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  44. "Health minister celebrates birth". The Daily Telegraph. London. 27 August 2001. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  45. "The Cabinet: Who's Who". BBC News. 30 November 2009. Archived from the original on 13 April 2009. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  46. "Woman's Hour Power list". BBC Radio 4. Archived from the original on 15 February 2013.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Geoff Lofthouse
Member of Parliament
for Pontefract and Castleford

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford

Political offices
Preceded by
Keith Hill
Minister of State for Housing and Planning
Succeeded by
Caroline Flint
Preceded by
Andy Burnham
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Liam Byrne
Preceded by
James Purnell
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Succeeded by
Iain Duncan Smith
Preceded by
Theresa May
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Succeeded by
Douglas Alexander
Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities
Succeeded by
Gloria De Piero
Preceded by
David Miliband
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Douglas Alexander
Preceded by
Ed Balls
Shadow Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Andy Burnham
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