Insight Public Affairs: Angela Eagle

With responsibility for enterprise and productivity, including small business taxation and economic reform at the Exchequer, the fastidious MP for Wallasey and keen cricketer has found herself at the centre of the economic maelstrom as the credit crunch and her Department's response to it, dominates the political agenda.

Born in Yorkshire and raised on Merseyside, Eagle joined the Labour Party at the age of 17 before studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University, where she chaired the university’s Fabian Society. Entering Parliament in her late twenties, Eagle worked briefly for the Confederation of Health Service Employees (COHSE) between graduation and her election to the Commons.
 
In opposition under Blair she was briefly a party Whip before promotion after the 1997 landslide to DEFRA. Eagle has enjoyed something of a stop-start career with jobs at the Department for Transport, the Department of Social Security and the Home Office between 1998 – 2002, but never rising above Under-Secretary. Her five years as a junior minister were followed by the same period in the backbench wilderness before Gordon Brown promoted her to her most challenging role to date, when he created the new post of Exchequer Secretary.
 
In her time away from front-line politics Eagle has spent several stints on the Public Accounts Select Committee and sat on the influential Treasury Select Committee. She founded the ‘New Wave Labour’ group - an attempt to start a debate amongst Labour MPs about moving the party to the moderate left, seen by many as a return to pre-Blairite policies.
 
Her parliamentary colleagues speak about her with warmth and say she is bedding down well in the Treasury team, having developed the respect of her civil servants – not always an easy task for a new Minister, especially in such a demanding department at such a difficult time.
 
If her political career has taken something of well-trodden path, the personal milestones she has achieved whilst in Parliament are perhaps even more significant. Recently voted the fourth most influential gay person in British politics she was the first openly lesbian MP, coming out in 1997, and remains the only openly lesbian parliamentarian in both the House of Commons and the Lords. In 2008 she entered into a civil partnership with long-time partner, Maria Exall – another first. She was also the youngest MP in the 1992 parliamentary intake at just 32 years old.
 
As a school girl, Eagle was an international chess player, a hobby she ended due to the demands of political activism. She does, though, remain an amateur cricketer and occasionally dons her whites for the House of Commons team. However, as an increasingly regular guest on the political media circuit – trusted as one of the coterie of Question Time and Newsnight Government spokespeople – she will have to focus on protecting her wickets from the googlies that Dimbleby and Paxman bowl at her more than those from fellow MPs.

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