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Who is Rachel Reeves? Record and profile of Keir Starmer's new Shadow Chancellor

The 42-year-old long ago dubbed 'boring snoring' is on a mission to inject adrenaline into Keir Starmer's frontbench operation. She has the credentials - but will the Labour reshuffle work? We have a look at the life of the Leeds West MP

Labour has a new Shadow Chancellor as the dust settles on Keir Starmer ’s chaotic post-election reshuffle.

Rachel Reeves is in after Anneliese Dodds was demoted from Labour ’s second-most-important job after only a year.

Many in Labour are furious about the botched shake-up - which the party leader was forced to strip back after a backlash at his bid to remove Angela Rayner as party chair.

Ms Rayner now has a 26-word job title, allowing her allies to claim she was not demoted after all.

But all the drama risks overlooking the characters who are now at the top of the party - with Ms Reeves first and foremost.

Rachel Reeves with Angela Rayner, who's been given a new 26-word job title
Rachel Reeves with Angela Rayner, who's been given a new 26-word job title (Image: PA)
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The 42-year-old has an intriguing political record that enamours her to her fans but angers some on the left.

Brought up in Lewisham, south London, she attended a state school and her parents, Sally and Graham, were both teachers.

She was the UK’s under-14 girls’ chess champion and has claimed the game is the perfect preparation for politics.

The Leeds West MP did, however, admit in 2011 that she’d played very little since leaving school.

Labour runs through her blood - literally. She joined at 16 and her sister and brother-in-law - Ellie Reeves and John Cryer - are both Labour MPs. She wrote a biography of Labour politician Alice Bacon, published in 2017.

The MP pictured during the 'pasty tax' row in the early 2010s with Ed Miliband and Ed Balls
The MP pictured during the 'pasty tax' row in the early 2010s with Ed Miliband and Ed Balls (Image: Caters)

Ms Reeves studied at Oxford and holds a Masters in Economics from the London School of Economics.

Fresh out of university she joined the Bank of England - turning down a Goldman Sachs job despite the generous salary.

“I believed in public service, and I thought the Bank of England was the best training for an economist,” she has said.

She did though move away from the job, working also at Lloyds Banking Group before she became an MP aged 31 in 2010.

“I am one of the few people entering politics to be going to a more popular profession," she joked at the time.

She didn’t have a perfect start, mixing up the debt and the deficit in a TV documentary in her first few months. The Guardian also named her as advertising for unpaid interns in 2011.

Fresh out of university she joined the Bank of England - turning down a Goldman Sachs job despite the generous salary
Fresh out of university she joined the Bank of England - turning down a Goldman Sachs job despite the generous salary (Image: Mirrorpix)

But having backed Ed Miliband for leader she enjoyed a quick rise, becoming Chief Secretary to the Treasury after 18 months.

By 2013 she was Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary - where she vowed to be tougher on benefits than the Tories.

In comments that still anger the Labour left, she said: “ We would be tougher… If they don't take it [the offer of a job] they will forfeit their benefit.”

She added: "If you can work you should be working, and under our compulsory jobs guarantee if you refuse that job you forgo your benefits, and that is really important."

She insisted Labour would scrap the “pernicious” Bedroom Tax but for some her card was marked.

Despite enjoying a quick rise, Ms Reeves spent five years in the wilderness of the back benches after the 2015 election.

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Having backed Andy Burnham for leader, she did not return from maternity leave to Jeremy Corbyn ’s Shadow Cabinet.

She later backed fierce Corbyn critics Owen Smith and Jess Phillips for leader in 2016 and 2020.

Her views on Brexit could be a headache for the leadership.

In 2018 she backed a second referendum on the final Brexit deal. But she also said there must be “restrictions” on the free movement of labour. Keir Starmer said in his leadership bid that he’d bring back EU free movement after Brexit.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former Jeremy Corbyn staffer, said: “Our almost immediate response to losing Hartlepool is to make a Blairite remainer who wanted to stop Brexit the Shadow Chancellor. Wish us luck in Batley [a new by-election] we’re gonna need it.”

But her supporters will point to her industrious time holding the worlds of business and government to account.

She used her time on the back benches fully, heading up the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee.

More recently she's nailed Tory croynism from the front benches in the Commons
More recently she's nailed Tory croynism from the front benches in the Commons (Image: Parliament Live)

There she made a name for herself challenging big business bosses from Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin to Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley, along with firms in trouble like Carillon and Thomas Cook.

From there it was a seamless transition to be Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, where she made it her task to uncover Tory “sleaze” and “cronyism” over Covid contracts.

In February she vowed Labour would reverse Tory outsourcing, including bringing NHS Test and Trace in-house, and crack down on MPs’ second jobs.

Now she has moved to her second job under Keir Starmer, the key question is whether she’ll have more cut-through with the public and impact than Anneliese Dodds.

Both were well-qualified to be Shadow Chancellor, but personality is important too.

Eight years ago, Ms Reeves was dubbed “boring snoring ” by Newsnight’s editor in a tweet he didn’t mean to make public.

She’ll point to her record and say she’s changed, with her feisty attacks on the government’s Covid cronyism.

The ultimate judges will be the public - and only time will tell.

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