Yvette Cooper (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 Edward Miliband. Cooper came third with 17.0% of the vote in the first round. Cooper subsequently resigned as Shadow Home Secretary in September 2015. In October 2016, Cooper was elected chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
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.
At the age of 24, Cooper developed chronic fatigue syndrome, which took a year to recover from. 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.
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. She served for two years on the Education and Employment Select Committee.
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. 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.
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 Home Information Pack (HIPS) scheme. 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 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".
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. 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.
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.
In 2013, she proposed a new national commissioner for domestic and sexual violence.
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: "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."
After a vote of MPs on 19 October 2016, Cooper was elected chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. As chair, Cooper launched a national inquiry into public views on immigration, and after an emergency inquiry into the Dubs scheme for child refugees, criticised the government's decision to end the programme in February 2017.