“Meet Rachel Reeves: The Ex-Chess Champion Competing to Become the UK’s First Female Chancellor”

Former Bank of England economist Rachel Reeves is in the running to become the United Kingdom’s first female chancellor. Alongside Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, she has been working to revamp the party’s image among voters following their devastating loss in the 2019 election. Reeves has been focused on presenting Labour as fiscally responsible, stating that she would never “play fast and loose” with the nation’s finances. Her role is crucial in making Labour appear more credible to voters and providing reassurance to the business sector after years of uncertainty.

Born in 1979 to teachers Graham and Sally Reeves, Rachel grew up in Lewisham, southeast London. Her parents split when she was seven years old. She is the older sister of Ellie Reeves, who is currently a Labour MP for Lewisham and Penge West. Rachel is married to Nicholas Joicey, a civil servant and former speech writer for Gordon Brown, and they have two children. Rachel and her sister both attended Cator Park, an all-girls comprehensive school in Beckenham, where she credits the school’s belief in her and their support for her success. In an article published in The Daily Telegraph in 2022, she described her dedication to school projects during the holidays, stating that she was always striving for top marks. She also mentioned her love for chess, which her father taught her at the age of seven, leading her to become the British girls under-14 champion.

Rachel’s competitive nature has propelled her to the top ranks of the Labour Party. She was first elected in 2010 as the MP for Leeds West and was appointed to her first shadow ministerial role in the Department for Work and Pensions that same year. In 2013, she was promoted to shadow work and pensions secretary, where she sparked controversy by declaring that Labour would be tougher on welfare than the Tories. She has been compared to the late Baroness Thatcher due to her tough stance on public spending, and in her prestigious Mais lecture in the City of London, she invoked the former prime minister’s famous phrase “decade of national renewal.” Rachel has also faced criticism from trade unions for her efforts to portray Labour as pro-worker and pro-business, leading to the party rebranding their “new deal for working people” as “Labour’s plan to make work pay.” General secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, criticized the rebrand, stating that the new plan had “more holes than Swiss cheese.”

Some have dubbed Rachel as the next “Iron Lady,” though she did not directly refer to Baroness Thatcher in her Mais lecture. She did, however, suggest that Labour would be facing a similar economic challenge to the one Thatcher encountered when she came into power in 1979. Rachel has promised to oversee a “decade of national renewal” and stated that Britain is at an “inflection point,” similar to the end of the 1970s.

One of the main criticisms of Rachel has been her lack of detail on Labour’s economic policies if they were to come into power. However, this approach aligns with Labour’s strategy of projecting an image of stability and caution to win over voters ahead of the next election. Rachel has also faced backlash from the left of the party for not promising to repeal Tory policies, such as the two-child benefit cap, and for watering down Labour’s landmark £28bn green investment pledge. Critics in the Conservative Party have nicknamed her the “Wikipedia chancellor” or the “copy and paste chancellor” after she admitted to “inadvertent mistakes” in her book, The Women Who Made Modern Economics, which were copied from Wikipedia. Rachel has assured that these errors will be rectified in future reprints.

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