UK centre-left Labour politician. She was secretary of state for work and pensions 2009–10, shadow secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs and shadow minister for women and equalities, and shadow home secretary 2011–15. A journalist and political advisor before becoming a member of Parliament in 1997, she held junior ministerial posts under Labour prime minister Tony Blair from 1999. A strong supporter of Gordon Brown, she was made housing minister when Brown became prime minister in June 2007, and in January 2008 was promoted to the cabinet, as chief secretary to the Treasury. Following Ed Miliband's resignation after Labour's defeat in the May 2015 general election, she challenged for the Labour leadership but finished third. A Labour centrist, she decided not to join the shadow cabinet of Labour's new leader, the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn.
Born in Inverness, she studied politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University and also studied at Harvard University, with a Kennedy Scholarship; she gained an MSc in economics at the London School of Economics. Before being elected to Parliament in 1997 as Labour MP for Pontefract and Castleford constituency (which became Normanton, Pontefract, and Castleford in 2010), she was a researcher and advisor to John Smith, Labour's shadow chancellor, 1990–92; to Bill Clinton, the US Democrat presidential candidate 1992; to Harriet Harman, Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury 1992–94; and economics correspondent with The Independent 1995–97. Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed her an undersecretary of state in 1999 in the Department of Health, and in 2003 she moved to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and, in 2005, to the Department of Communities and Local Government, as a minister of state.
In 1998, she married Ed Balls, the advisor to chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who also became an MP in 2005 and a cabinet minister in 2007. Although viewed as a strong potential candidate, she decided not to contest for Labour's leadership in 2010, instead supporting her husband's candidacy. They became the first married couple to serve as cabinet ministers at the same time.
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