Yvette Cooper

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 served as the MP for Pontefract and Castleford since 1997.

Yvette Cooper

Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee
Assumed office
19 October 2016
Preceded 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 MinisterTony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded byKeith Hill
Succeeded byCaroline Flint
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 byKay Andrews
Parliamentary Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department
In office
29 May 2002  12 June 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byMichael Wills
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health
In office
11 October 1999  28 May 2002
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byTessa Jowell (Minister of State)
Succeeded byDavid Lammy
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
20 January 2011  12 September 2015
LeaderEd Miliband
Harriet Harman (Acting)
Preceded byEd Balls
Succeeded byAndy Burnham
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 Minister for Women and Equalities
In office
11 May 2010  7 October 2013
LeaderHarriet Harman (Acting)
Ed Miliband
Preceded byTheresa May
Succeeded byGloria De Piero
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In office
11 May 2010  8 October 2010
LeaderHarriet Harman (Acting)
Ed Miliband
Preceded byTheresa May
Succeeded byDouglas Alexander
Member of Parliament
for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford
Pontefract and Castleford (1997–2010)
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded byGeoff Lofthouse
Majority1,276 (2.6%)
Personal details
Born (1969-03-20) 20 March 1969
Inverness, Scotland
Political partyLabour
Ed Balls (m. 1998)
ParentsTony Cooper (father)
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Harvard University
London School of Economics

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.[8]

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 Bill Clinton, nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States, 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 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 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

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".[13]

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.[14] 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.[15][16]

Allegations over expenses

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 standards 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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20][21] 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.[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.[11]

Cooper and Balls were the first married couple to serve together in the British Cabinet.[24]

Shadow Home Secretary

On 20 January 2011, she took the position of Shadow Home Secretary amidst a shadow cabinet reshuffle.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27]

In 2013, she proposed the appointment of a national commissioner for domestic and sexual violence.[28] She spoke at the Labour Party Conference in 2014 about eastern Europeans who were mistreated by employers of migrant labour.[29]

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 nominated by 59 MPs, 12 MEPs, 109 CLPs, two affiliated trade unions and one socialist society.[31][32][33] 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.[34][35] Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly endorsed Cooper as his first choice for leader, as did former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.[36][37]

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.[38]

Candidate[39] Party members Registered supporters Affiliated supporters Total[2]
Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes %
Jeremy Corbyn Y 121,751 49.6 88,449 83.8 41,217 57.6 251,417
Andy Burnham 55,698 22.7 6,160 5.8 18,604 26.0 80,462
Yvette Cooper 54,470 22.2 8,415 8.0 9,043 12.6 71,928
Liz Kendall 13,601 5.5 2,574 2.4 2,682 3.8 18,857


Following the 2015 Labour Party leadership election, Cooper returned to the backbenches, after nearly seventeen years on the frontbench.[40] 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.[41][42] She spoke about the issue at Labour's annual conference in 2016.[43]

She supported Owen Smith in the failed attempt to replace Jeremy Corbyn in the 2016 leadership election.[44]

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[45] and, after an emergency inquiry into the Dubs scheme for child refugees, criticised the government's decision to end the programme in February 2017.[46][47]

Cooper has been critical of the May Government's infrastructure plans' focus on big cities and has been 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.[48][49] She said the following in regard to the launch of the group:[48]

She is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[50]


During the Brexit process, Cooper has consistently fought against a no-deal Brexit, tabling one of the main amendments in January 2019 in the same manner as Caroline Spelman, Graham Brady, Rachael Reeves, Dominic Grieve and Ian Blackford.[51]

In the latter stages of Brexit, Cooper tabled a private members bill [52] which has the intended effect of preventing a "no-deal" Brexit. The Bill was voted to be discussed as an important bill using processes often used for issues of national security. MP's voted 312 to 311 in favour of allowing her bill to be fast tracked and it was made law on 8 April 2019.

Personal life

Cooper married Ed Balls on 10 January 1998[53] in Eastbourne. Her husband was Economic Secretary to the Treasury in the Tony Blair government, then in opposition was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and a candidate in the 2010 Labour Party leadership election. The couple have two daughters (Ellie and Maddie) and one son (Joel).[54]


  1. "Yvette Cooper announces candidacy for Labour leadership". The Guardian. London. Press Association. 13 May 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  2. "Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest". BBC News. 12 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  3. "Yvette Cooper elected Chair of Home Affairs Committee". UK Parliament. October 2016. 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.
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  7. Rachel Cooke (1 March 2014). "Yvette Cooper interview: Labour's quiet contender". Archived from the original on 2 March 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
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  9. "House of Commons Debates 2 July 1997 col 387–91". Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  10. "Yvette Cooper appeals to family vote with childcare pledge". The Independent. 25 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  11. "Rt Hon Yvette Cooper". UK Parliament. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  12. 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.
  13. "£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.
  14. "Welfare Reform Act 2009 – a quick guide | Child Poverty Action Group". www.cpag.org.uk. April 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  15. "CPAG urges Yvette Cooper to change tack on welfare reform | Community Care". www.communitycare.co.uk. 10 June 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  16. "Welfare bill won't reduce poverty | Letters". The Guardian. 12 June 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
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  20. "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.
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  30. Wilby, Peter (8 July 2015). "Once again, the biggest losers from George Osborne's budget are women". New Statesman. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
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  36. 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.
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  38. Smith, Mike (26 August 2015). "What are Yvette Cooper's policies?". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  39. "Results of the Labour Leadership elections – The Labour Party". 12 September 2015. Archived from the original on 21 July 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  40. Wintour, Patrick (15 September 2015). "Yvette Cooper to focus attention on response to refugee crisis". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  41. Walker, Peter (16 September 2015). "Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet in full". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  42. "Labour's Refugee Taskforce". Yvette Cooper. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  43. "Yvette's speech to Labour Annual Conference 2016". Yvette Cooper. 29 September 2016. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  44. "Full list of MPs and MEPs backing challenger Owen Smith". LabourList. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  45. 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.
  46. Elgot, Jessica (20 February 2017). "MPs warn over child refugees sleeping rough after Dubs scheme closure". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  47. Jackson, Jasper (5 March 2017). "Home Office decision to end Dubs scheme 'not backed by evidence'". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  48. Cooper, Yvette. "Tory Austerity is Hitting Towns". Labour Towns. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  49. Cooper MP, Yvette; De Piero MP, Gloria; Cunningham MP, Alex; Hanson MP, David; Onn MP, Melonie (2019). Labour Towns: ‘A Fair Deal For Our Towns’ (PDF). Online: Labour Towns.
  50. "LFI Supporters in Parliament". Labour Friends of Israel. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
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  54. "Health minister celebrates birth". The Daily Telegraph. London. 27 August 2001. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
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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