Rachel Reeves: Who is the UK’s New Chancellor?

“Serious” and “determined” are words often used to describe Rachel Reeves, the former Bank of England economist who has become the UK’s first female chancellor.

But colleagues and friends have suggested that her public persona does not reflect her human side, with a loud laugh and deep love of Beyoncé tracks.

In her maiden speech, external in the House of Commons in 2010, she vowed to fight for “jobs, growth and prosperity” – all of which form the central pillar of Labour’s economic plans as it enters government.

So who exactly is Rachel Reeves, and how might she address the challenges ahead?

Reeves was born in south-east London in 1979, just a few months before Margaret Thatcher became prime minister at a time of immense social and economic change.

Her parents were both teachers and have described her as an adventurous child who might venture to the edge of a path when on a walk near the seaside.

She previously told the BBC that her mum would tick off items on a bank statement against receipts while sitting at the kitchen table: “We weren’t poor, but we didn’t have money to waste.”

Her parents separated when she was at primary school and she and her sister Ellie, also a Labour MP, were shuttled between separate homes.

During the school holidays, the sisters would spend time with their grandparents in the Northamptonshire town of Kettering.

They would be taken to do the rounds of relatives’ houses, who would give them a 20p or 50p piece each. At the end of their week, they were taken to the local toy shop to choose their goodies. While Ellie would spend all of her cash, the young Rachel would allow herself a smaller treat and save most of the money.

Decades later, Chancellor Reeves would say that kind of restraint defines her, and has very much modelled herself on Gordon Brown’s “prudence” in the lead-up to Labour’s 1997 election win.

Reeves played chess from an early age, with her father teaching her the key moves. By the time she was in secondary school, she was a national champion, and would “quietly thrash” any boys who might think they were in for an easy game, according to Ellie.

A keen flute player, she took her music GCSE a year early at Beckenham’s Cator Park School for Girls, a comprehensive school, and would go on to gain four A-levels.

Seeing the extent of cuts at her school, where the library had been turned into a classroom and the sixth form consisted of “two pre-fab huts in the playground”, she has said she was politicised by her own experience of public services. At the age of 17, Reeves joined the Labour Party.

She went on to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University. As a student Reeves would host others before college discos, blasting Destiny’s Child songs and dressing up in her room.

After graduating, she took on a role as an economist at the Bank of England.

She worked on the central bank’s Japan desk, looking at the country’s attempts to come out of stagnation in the 1990s.

During a secondment to the UK’s embassy in Washington DC, she met her future husband Nicholas Joicey, who had spent time as a film critic for newspapers and as a speechwriter to then-Chancellor Gordon Brown.

The path to Parliament was not clear for Reeves though. There were two failed campaigns for the former seat of Bromley and Chislehurst, typically a safe one for the Conservatives.

Before becoming an MP for Leeds West in 2010, she moved to Leeds and spent time working at the Halifax Bank of Scotland.

On entering Parliament, she rose quickly up the ranks.

She was awarded a number of key shadow roles and, according to political columnist Rachel Sylvester, was “seen from the start as someone to be promoted”.

One colleague said that she “chews through calls and briefings”, before adding, “I have never, ever, ever, seen her unprepared.”