Yvette Cooper: I’ll be nobody’s puppet

YVETTE Cooper has told hubby Ed Balls that SHE wears the trousers now as shesteps up her bid to become Labour’s first woman leader.

She insists her other half – between jobs after losing his seat – won’t be pulling the strings from home if she wins.

Mum-of-three Ms Cooper declared: “I won’t be anyone’s puppet. I can think for myself.

“I have my own ideas, my own vision and if I am lucky enough to be elected leader I will be entirely my own person.”

In an exclusive interview, she told how she aims to “smash the glass ceiling” and land the job her husband failed to secure five years ago.

Ms Cooper, 46, believes there has never been a better time for the party of women’s rights to hand the crown to a woman.

And she admits her first task must be to win back millions of voters – including Sun readers – who deserted them on May 7.

Feisty Mrs Cooper, 46, believes she is caring, experienced and tough enough to lead her stricken party back into power – and can do it without Ed’s help.

She pointed at a photo-mosaic portrait of Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, created from tiny photos of famous women, on the wall of her Commons office.

“Remember what they said about her 100 years ago?” she asked. “They said married women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they would do what their husbands told them.

“Well, here’s a surprise. Women have ideas of their own. They can think for themselves. And that’s what I will do if I become leader.

“I’ll always be my own person. I’ll stand up for women and men across the country who want to do their own thing, have their own ideas and get on.

“Yes, that will mean challenging prejudice, sexism and different kinds of attitudes. But I think we can smash the glass ceiling, do things in a different way and shake up the system.

“But we can do it in a way that includes everybody and makes everybody feel part of this rather than just turning people away.”

Unlike her husband, the former shadow chancellor, smart, elfin-faced Ms Cooper is free of toxic links to ex-PM Gordon Brown.

The comprehensive schooled daughter of a union chief was a twenty-something when she became an MP in Tony Blair’s landslide victory of 1997.

Eighteen years on, the “Blair’s Babe” has come of age and says she’s ready to make history herself.

She vowed to break up the old boys’ club that rules Westminster and put the family back at the heart of politics – with policies she dreams up at the school gates.

Ms Cooper said: “Politicians should go to where people are and not just expect them to come to Westminster.

“Instead of having meeting public meetings or waiting for constituents to turn up at my surgeries, I just go and stand at the school gates, talk to other mums and dads, hand out a few leaflets and chat to parents and grandparents, often, as well.

“Many people come up with problems they are having, maybe about housing, work or something in the town. But you have to chat at the school gates.

Labour grew too narrow in its appeal under Ed Miliband, she says, offering only sticking plaster solutions to problems instead of big visions for the future.

The shadow home secretary added: “Our party needs a strong sense of direction. We have to include as many people as possible .

“I want to have everybody to feel they can be proud to support the Labour party and for us to feel proud to support them in their lives.

“We need to put families at the heart of our politics. As a mum, I feel very strongly about that because my family, my kids are the most important thing in my life.

“That has to be reflected in what we do. We were just too narrow and we’ve got to reach out and rebuild and that means winning back voters we lost to Ukip, the Tories and the SNP.

“We’ve got to be able to do it across the whole country – Scotland, England, Wales, north, south, big cities, small towns, tiny communities.

“What the SNP is doing is dividing us. I care just as much about kids growing up in poverty in Lanarkshire as in Leeds or London. Wherever you live, we should be supporting each other.

“I want us all to have a sense of coming together. So yes, that does mean that the Labour party has to rebuild, it has to change and it has to reach outward.

“Sun readers are incredibly important because it’s about letting everybody across the country know that Labour is supporting their ambitions in life.

“They all share a common desire – to improve their living standards and feel confident about their kids’ future.

“We’ve got to show practical things we can do to help families get on, to know their kids can get an apprenticeship, have a good start in life and go to university.

“They need to know that not only will there be good jobs in the future but that they’ll be able to climb the career ladder and get on.”

Yvette Cooper talks to David Wooding

Yvette Cooper talks to David Wooding

Sitting in her office, overlooking Parliament Square the Ms Cooper expressed dismay at Labour MPs who say it will take 10 years to put the party on its feet – and insists under her leadership it can be ready for power in 2020.

She said: “With me as leader, I’m determined we can win at the next election. We can do that by reaching out to as many people as possible. “

Ms Cooper believes being a working mum gives her the edge, added: “Support for families is not just about childcare. It is really important but we have to support families and understand the things parents worry about for the future.

“I’ve always been a big supporter of SureStart centres, which are about health and parenting support. They’re about mums getting to know each other so they’re not isolated. It’s broader and if you see it.”

Ms Cooper admits she faces a tough battle to finish ahead of rivals Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn when the new leader is picked in September.

But she believes she can unite the party and added: “We have to drop the old labels of left and right, Blair and Brown.

“My family are from the northern coalfield towns. Dad was a trade union official, my grandfather a miner and my mum a maths teacher.

“For me politics has always been about giving everyone a fair chance in life – whatever their background.”

Is she tough enough to be PM?

“Experience matters, “ she said, “and it’s made me strong enough to deal with it. I’m really up for this.

“We’ve had over 100 years of fighting for women’s equality in the Labour party – ever since the Suffragettes.

“Today 43 per cent of our MPs are female, which is more than double the Conservatives, and electing a woman leader is long overdue.

“So I think it is time we smashed that one last glass ceiling in our party. We have the chance to shake up the Westminster old boys’ club and do things differently and that’s what I’m going to be fighting for.”

ED Balls has been a perfect “house husband” since he lost his seat on May 7.

The former shadow chancellor is developing his domestic skills – and serving up tasty meals for his young family.

Ms Cooper said: “When we first moved in together, I used to do all the cooking. But then he had a go and he’s really into it.

“Now he’s doing all the cooking. He can do all kinds of things. He likes barbecue dishes particularly but is expanding his repertoire a bit recently.”

There were tears when Mr Balls was voted out in one of the biggest shocks of election night and he’s taking a break before deciding what to do next.

His wife added: “He’s spending a lot of time answering emails. He’s received lots of supportive messages, including from the Tories and people who liked the speech he gave on the night.”

She was a football widow again as Ed went to Wembley to watch his beloved Norwich City clinch promotion to the Premiership after defeating Middlesbrough in the play-off final.

But she had her way a couple of nights before when the family gathered around the TV to watch the Eurovision song contest.

“I really like Eurovision,” she said.

In their spare time they watch boxed sets of series including Friday Night Lights and Nashville.

Ms Cooper manages to juggle motherhood with being a top politician.

But the biggest demand on her time is being family “taxi driver” for Ellie, 15, Joel, 13, and Maddy, 10.

“I feel I spend most of my time being a cab service for the kids,” she joked.

“On the night of the election debate we had two of them in a school performance so we went to watch.

“I came out and all these calls, texts and emails flooded in. I was looking at my phone trying to catch up what was going on as I walked along and bumped into a lamp post.

“But I wouldn’t change anything because being with the kids are such precious times.

FOREIGN visitors should be charged a £10 visa waiver fee to pay for extra border controls, Ms Cooper says.

She thinks net immigration could be cut if everyone was counted in and out of the country.

British tourists who travel to the USA and some non-EU countries have to pay to register their details online – but it’s free for those coming here.

Ms Cooper said: “Why not have the same system of charges that other countries have so we could raise enough money for a thousand extra border staff.

“Let’s have strong enforcement but make sure the staff are in place to do the job – and taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill.”

She admitted the last Labour government got it wrong by not demanding transitional controls for Eastern European migrants.

Immigration should be controlled and managed so that it’s fair, she said.

Under her leadership, Labour would stop undercutting of wages by migrants but ensure those who want to create jobs are given help to do so.

CHILDREN should be taught computer coding at school to get them ready for jobs of the future, Yvette Cooper says.

She believes all kids should learn how to create websites and apps to help get Britain back on track in the modern world.

Ms Cooper says it is now as important a skill as learning the three Rs and vowed that a government led by her would make it compulsory.

“It’s vital we catch up in the skills race,” she said. “People want to know their kids have the best chance in life once they leave school.

“Where are the digital jobs going to be? What chance are they going to have? Are we making sure that all our children learn coding at school?

“So many of the jobs of the future are going to depend on internet and digital and yet 95 per cent of the coding is done by men.

“We want people from all walks of life and from every back ground to have the chance of the best jobs in the future.”

LABOUR was slow off the mark to reform the benefits system last the party was in power, Yvette Cooper admits.

She says work must pay and it is important that people pay into the system when they can.

But she stressed: “We have to make sure that people who are suffering from serious disabilities also get the support that they need as well.” Ms Cooper says Labour was right to focus on getting young people into work when it first won power in 1997.

However, she added: “We were slow to start the incapacity benefit reforms.

“It took a long time to then start changing the systems around incapacity  benefits and making sure there were proper systems in place. We should have done more and acknowledged that things like childcare are really important, too.

“Childcare costs have soared through the roof and families feel really stretched. You have stay at home mums feeling guilty staying at home, mums at work feeling guilty for going out to work, and everyone feeling under pressure. I want to do more to support all families.”

Yvette in brief…

1969: Born in Inverness to trade union official Tony and maths teacher June.

1990: Researcher for Labour MP John Smith.

1992: Adviser to Bill Clinton in the US.

1997: Wins safe seat of Pontefract and Castleford.

1998: Weds Ed Balls.

2007: Lands her first ministerial job – housing

2008 Promoted to Cabinet as Chief Treasury Secretary.

2011: Appointed Shadow Home Secretary.

2015: Launches leadership bid

New Sneers Honours

By DAVID WOODING
IT’S been a year when the people of Britain have stuck a collective two fingers up to MPs.
Voters have used the ballot box to take their revenge on politicians of all varieties, whom many see as out of touch.
But some MPs and peers  haven’t learned a thing as they hurl insults, throw tantrums and sneer at ordinary people.
So in an irreverent, but light-hearted, look back at the past year in Parliament, here are my New Sneer’s Honours.
Sneer of the Realm: Labour’s Emily Thornberry who scoffed at a house with three England flags and a white van outside. She resigned as shadow attorney general hours after tweeting a picture of them hours before the Rochester by-election result.
Life sneerage: Fouled-mouthed Tory Andrew Mitchell fought a £3 million, two-year legal after denying he called cops “plebs” when they refused to let him ride his bike through the Downing Street main gates. A High Court judge sided with the cops and told the snobbish ex-Chief Whip: “On yer bike.”
Cabbie-net Minister of the Year: David Mellor berated a taxi driver who suggested a quicker route, calling him a “a smart-arsed little b*****d” and telling him: “Shut up you sweaty little git.” The Tory ex-minister added: “I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s counsel.” He was forced to apologise after cabbies threatened to ban him. I’d like to see how long he waits next time he wants to hail a taxi.
Sneer of the Year: Tory MP Mark Garnier for telling his party not to bother with “dog-end voters” who live in “outlying regions”. Suspect he’ll soon be at the dog-end of his political career.
aaa2

Emily Thornberry and the twitpic that cost her her job.

Yes, Yes, Yes Minister: Deputy PM’s wife Miriam Clegg wins the honesty award for saying “women have been faking it for years”. But has she told husband Nick?
Snooze-Night TV Award: David Cameron, who admitted he often dozes off on the sofa when he has a night in front of the telly with wife Sam. The PM said: “Half an hour of Silent witness and we’re both asleep.” At least Sam doesn’t have to fake it.
The “Three minutes is a long time in politics” Award: Tory chief whip Michael Gove was nominated by his gossipy wife Sarah Vine. When told that men burn 4.2 calories a minute during sex, she quipped: “Wow! That’s 12.6 calories a session.”
Big Benn Clanger of the Year: Diane Abbott for live tweeting from inside church at Tony Benn’s funeral. An angry admirer of the Labour legend (that’s Benn, not Abbott) raged: “Why not go the whole hog and do a selfie with the coffin?”
The Prat that got the Queen: The royal claws were out for David Cameron after he claimed Her Majesty “purred” with pleasure when he phoned her the No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
OBE – ‘Orrible Butty Eater: Ed Miliband, who bit off more than he could chew when he tried to battle his way through a bacon sandwich. The sarnie won.
The Gillette Award for Sharpest Political Putdown: Louise Mensch after MP’s wife Karen Danczuk posted saucy cleavage selfies on Twitter: “Put them away, love. Frankly, I’d rather see Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich.”
Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Gold Medal for Selfie-Exposure: Charities Minister Brooks Newmark resigned after sending explicit photographs of himself to an undercover reporter. The nation was appalled at his bad taste. Surely, no self-respecting MP would be seen dead hanging out of paisley pyjamas.
Class Warrior of the Year: Singer Myleene Klass for ripping Ed Miliband to shreds on TV over his planned mansion tax. “You can’t just point at something and say let’s tax it,” she stormed. “You might as well tax this glass of water.”
Worst political U-turn: Ed Balls, who was investigated by cops after hitting a parked car while doing a seven-point turn in a narrow street then driving off. It’s not the first time the shadow chancellor has found himself in a tight spot.
The Jack Horner Award for Women’s Rights: Nigel Farage, who infuriated mums by telling them to breastfeed in the corner of cafes and restaurants where nobody could see them.
aaa1

Exposed: My story about Brooks Newmark.

Feminist of the Year: Sports Minister Helen Grant for her efforts to get more women involved in physical activity with these fine words of advice: “There are some wonderful sports you can do and look absolutely radiant and very feminine. Ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating.”
Overseas Aid Champion: Harriet Harman who wore a T-shirt with the slogan “This is what a feminist looks like”. Her selfless act helped to boost employment in Mauritius, where women were paid 62p an hour to work in a sweatshop making the garments.
House of Lards Pin-up of the Year: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has been bombarded with demands for signed photographs from young girls in Russia. A puzzled aide admitted: “I’ve no idea why Eric is so big over there.”
Cockup of the Year: Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt for using the word “cock” six times and “lay” or “laid” five times during a Commons speech on poultry welfare. But she later let slip it was part of a smutty dare from Royal Navy officer friends.

Twerking twerp of the year: David Cameron for twerking at an Ibiza-style rave he hosted at Chequers to celebrate his wife Samantha’s 40th birthday – after branding top twerker Miley Cyrus a bad role model for kids.

Pint of Order: George “We’re all in this together” Osborne, for keeping a padlock on his office fridge to stop staff raiding his milk. Well, at least he’s miserly with the rest of us, too.
Rocky Belt for Parliamentary Punch-ups: SNP chief Alex Salmond and Labour’s Alistair Darling who squared up in live TV debates over Scots independence. Two Scottish men shouting at each other and they didn’t have the decency to do it in a Glasgow pub.
Resignation of the Year: Home Office minister Norman Baker quits, saying that working there was like “walking through mud”. Think how your boss, Theresa May copes, Norman. She does it wearing kitten heels.

 

New Jeers Honours

By DAVID WOODING

THERE has been plenty of gloom in the corridors of power during 2013.

It’s been a year of squeezes and freezes as politicians tell us all to tighten our belts.

But through all the austerity, they still managed to make us laugh – if only at their own tantrums, cock-ups.

So let’s loosen those belts a notch or two as Sun on Sunday Political Editor David Wooding honours those MPs in his NewJeers Political Awards.

Prat of the Year

MEP Godfrey Bloom for a string of outbursts too brazen even for the “fruitcakes and loonies” of UKIP. He dubbed African countries “bongo bong land”, branding women who don’t clean behind the fridge “sluts”. UKIP boss Nigel Farage stripped him of the party whip – probably using even more fruity language in the process.

Gold medal for selfie-exposure

David Cameron was caught snoozing barefoot on a bed in the background of a picture, posted on Instagram, of his sister-in-law getting ready for her wedding. Clearly, the red ministerial box beside him was full of dreary reading.

Image

The Gillette Award for sharpest put-down

The striker whose one-liner floored Tory heavyweight Eric Pickles after he scoffed at the small number of union activists on a Whitehall picket line.The roly poly Cabinet bruiser laughed: “I’ve walked past longer chip shop queues.” Quick as a flash, the un-named striker retorted: “But Eric, you’ve NEVER walked past a chip shop queue in your life.”

Shafter BAFTA

London Mayor Boris Johnson with this put down for Labour leader Ed Miliband: “Only a socialist could consider family ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.”

Gaffe of the year 1

David Cameron for declaring he was on “team Nigella” and almost halting the trial of the TV chef’s former servants. The judge told the jury to ignore what he said. Labour would, no doubt, agree.

Gaffe of the year 2

The PM again for being unable to quote the price of a loaf – then admitting he baked his own using a posh, trendy bread-maker and organic flour.

A League of Their Own medal for sport

Sports minister Helen Grant who failed to get a single question right in a TV sports quiz.  She couldn’t name the Wimbledon women’s champ (Marion Bartoli), the FA cup holders (Wigan Athletic) or the England rugby captain (Chris Robshaw). Back in training for you, Ms Grant.

Twit of the Year

Labour MP Jack Dromey favourited gay porn websites on Twitter. The dad-of-three accidentally clicked on posts about well-endowed gay black men while researching a holiday. His wife, equalities zealot Harriet Harman, will clearly be pleased with his efforts to achieve diversity.

Jingle Balls Medal

Ed Balls, under pressure over his red-faced blustering performance at the autumn statement, mis-timed his grade three piano exam for the same day and had to postpone it. But he did better in his first public recital when he played a piece for children with only a few bum notes.

Pants on Fire Diploma

This is always a tough one in politics, with so many liars to choose from. But Chris Huhne wins this year’s award on points…the three he had put on his wife’s driving licence. The former Energy Secretary was jailed for eight months for perverting justice, but freed after serving 62 days, describing it as a “humbling and sobering experience”. True to form, it wasn’t long before he shamelessly took to the airwaves pontificating on the behaviour of others. Huhne wasn’t the only politician to run into trouble behind the wheel, though…

Strop Gear Award for Motoring

Commons Speaker John Bercow was called an “arrogant toff” and a “little weasel” in a five-minute dressing down by a mum who claimed he pranged her car while parking.

The Red “Ed” Light Award for Road discipline

Ed Balls, famed for blowing his top during Commons debates, didn’t see red for once – at a set of traffic lights. The shadow chancellor was fined after police cameras caught him jumping a red signal in his car. He confessed only weeks earlier he had also been caught speeding.

We’re all in this (parking space) together medal

George Osborne, after his car was caught on camera using a disabled parking bay in the same week the Chancellor cut disability benefits. And while we’re on motoring…

U-turn of the Year

David Cameron promised to be the greenest PM ever but with a screech of tyres he then promised to “cut the green crap” to bring down energy costs. Foot on the gas, Dave.

Margaret Thatcher memorial medal for tributes

Respect – but not respected – MP George Galloway produced the most churlish response to Lady Thatcher’s death with “tramp the dirt down”. He shares the award with ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who provided the most cringe-making tribute: “A grocer’s daughter who taught me anything is possible…x.”

Nelson Mandela Award for Name-dropping

Nearly all top politicians were quick to boast how they once shook hands with Nelson Mandela…apart from Nick Clegg. But that didn’t stop him making a personal tribute on his death. The Deputy PM was greeted with howls of laughter as he told the Commons he never met the South African leader – but knew somebody who had.

Snouts in the Trough Award

Millionaire health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who blew £3,700 of taxpayers’ money learning his Chinese wife’s language, was front runner. But he was pipped at the post by most of the 650 other MPs who demanded an 11 per cent pay rise while the rest of us have our wages squeezed.

Fashionista of the Year

Labour’s Stella Creasy left kitten-heeled Home Secretary Theresa May in the shade by donning a chic blue PVC pencil skirt to question the PM in the Commons. Perhaps she’ll land a shadow Cabinet job – but her leader will make the vinyl decision.

Image

Rocky Belt for Parliamentary punch-ups

Hellraiser Eric Joyce spent a night in police cells after a brawl in a Commons bar – just a year after being charged with another Westminster fracas. But it was his decision to stand down as Falkirk MP which started the mother of all punch-ups as Ed Miliband squared up to union militants over who should be Labour’s new candidate.

Snooze-night award for political broadcasting

Newsnight editor Ian Katz wins hands down for taking to Twitter to brand Labour’s rising star Rachel Reeves “boring snoring” moments after she went on his BBC2 show. Ms Reeves replied simply: “Thanks”. But red-faced Katz, only two weeks in his job after leaving the Guardian, apologized in writing.

Plain speaking award

John Prescott, who on hearing his successor as deputy PM, Nick Clegg, has 15 advisers, quipped: “Even Jesus Christ capped it at 12.”

Political wisdom award

TV’s Jeremy Paxman for summing up the three choices facing voters at the next election – barely 500 days away – thus: “The people who gave us five years of austerity, the people who left us in this mess and  the people who pledged they would not raise student fees – the most blatant lie in recent political history.”

Labour chief Ed Miliband puts new blood in shadow cabinet

By DAVID WOODING

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband rejuvenated his top team today by bringing five new MPs into his inner circle.

Rookies from the 2010 intake were promoted to the front bench as Mr Miliband staged his first shadow cabinet reshuffle since he landed the job a year ago.

Mr Miliband took advantage of a party rule change which allows him to choose his own spokesmen – ending the traditional elections by MPs, union chiefs and grass roots members.

Five senior MPs go out to make way for new blood – most of whom have only been MPs for less than 18 months.

Rachel Reeves (pictured right), a former Bank of England economist, becomes deputy to Ed Balls in the Treasury team. She has impressed the leadership with a wave of TV appearances since winning the Leeds West seat last year. The previous holder of the post, Angela Eagle, moves to be shadow Commons leader.

Stephen Twigg, also part of the 2010 intake, takes over as shadow education secretary, the present incumbent, Andy Burnham, moving to health – where he served as secretary of state in the last government.

Chuka Umunna, another talented, young new arrival, gets the important business brief.

Rising star Michael Dugher (pictured below left) will attend shadow Cabinet as Cabinet Office spokesman without portfolio along with fellow newcomer Liz Kendall, who becomes shadow minister for care of older people.

In other changes, Hilary Benn takes over at  Communities and Local Government, raising the delicious prospect of regular Commons jousts with Eric Pickles.

Ivan Lewis is moved from Culture Media and Sport to International Development, where he was a junior minister in the last government.

He said he was “delighted” to be returning to that field and added: “My time there was one of my most satisfying in government, helping to change the world.” Mr Lewis is replaced at Culture by deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman.

Five people leave the shadow cabinet, including shadow business secretary John Denham and health spokesman John Healey who stepped down hours before the reshuffle. (See following story)

Those sacked by Mr Miliband include Shaun Woodward, replaced at Northern Ireland by Vernon Coaker and Meg Hillier, who gives way at energy for Caroline Flint. Ann McKechin is dropped as shadow Scottish secretary in favour of Margaret Curran.

Eleven shadow minister held on to the same jobs, including the top three – shadow chancellor Ed Balls, his wife Yvette Cooper at home affairs and Douglas Alexander as Foreign Office spokesman.

Sadiq Khan keeps his job as shadow justice secretary and chief whip Rosie Winterton remains in place, as does Jim Murphy at defence, Maria Eagle at transport and Tessa Jowell on Olympics.

Peter Hain remains shadow Wales secretary, Mary Creagh will continue speaking on the environment and Liam Byrne stays on as shadow work and pensions secretary.