In Depth

Angela Eagle: Who is the MP hoping to topple Corbyn?

Stalwart of the shadow cabinet emerges into limelight with leadership bid

160711-angela-eagle.jpg

After more than 20 years in the House of Commons, Angela Eagle is to oppose Jeremy Corbyn with a bid to lead the Labour party.

Eagle is the first MP to openly challenge the party's embattled leader. On 27 June, she stepped down as shadow first secretary of state during the wave of shadow cabinet resignations protesting against his leadership.

Shadow health secretary and key Corbyn ally Diane Abbott has denounced Eagle as the 'Empire Strikes Back candidate' – a dig at her supposedly shaky left-wing credentials. Eagle, 50, was one of 244 Labour MPs to vote in favour of the Iraq War in 2003 and also approved air strikes on Syria last year.

However, the Labour Left will be more impressed with her stance on social issues, where Eagle has consistently voted for progressive causes.

Her voting record shows that she has opposed cuts to local government spending, reducing the welfare budget and privatisation of NHS services, while backing higher taxes on the rich.

Abbott accused her of voting to raise tuition fees, but Eagle actually opposed the Coalition's plan to raise the fee cap to £9,000 per year, although she was in favour of earlier rises under the Labour government. She has also been a firm supporter of gay, minority and women's rights.

It will now be up to Labour's membership to decide if Eagle has what it takes to lead the opposition.

Working class roots

Born in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, Eagle grew up in Merseyside in a working class family. Despite being "very clever", her mother had felt out of place at grammar school and dropped out to work in a factory. "She was determined we wouldn't make the mistakes that she did," Eagle told the Daily Telegraph.

Educated at local comprehensives, Eagle went on to win a place at St John's College, Oxford, to study politics, philosophy and economics, before working her way up the Labour party ranks.

Westminster trailblazer

Now a Westminster veteran, she has served as the MP for Wallasey, in the Wirral, since 1992. She served as Gordon Brown's minister for pensions and ageing society, and has since held four positions in the shadow cabinet.

In 1997, her twin sister, Maria, joined her in the House of Commons after being elected as the Labour MP for the nearby Garston and Halewood constituency.

In the same year, she came out as a lesbian – the first MP to do so voluntarily (Labour MP for Northampton North Maureen Colquhoun was outed as a lesbian in 1976 and subsequently lost her seat). She has been in a civil partnership with trade union activist Maria Exall since 2008.  

According to the Parliamentary Yearbook, her hobbies include "cricket, cinema, photography and music".

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