Anybody in the street going My parents always had an open house. through difficulties – they could be grieving for a partner, or having trouble with their toddler – would come to ours for help.
It was only six weeks before the 1997 I fell into politics almost by accident. election when Ruth Kelly and Lorna Fitzsimons told me to give it a go. Suddenly I was out campaigning. I had to go out and buy a handbag.
I once turned up at Kicking a rugby ball in a skirt and heels isn’t easy. a Castleford Tigers match expecting to do a speech and they asked me to kick off ! I remember being so proud of thwacking the ball down the pitch that I forgot I was supposed to run off afterwards because the game had started.
I was 24 and spent a year Having ME felt like a flu that wouldn’t go away. just watching daytime TV. You learn to manage your energy well.
But when When you’re young you think you can cram in everything. I became sick that wasn’t possible and I started to notice other people who had to move through life more slowly, too – a woman with a buggy, an old man crossing the road with a stick. It taught me to be more patient.
I had to visit a teenage Politics is more like The Thick Of It than you imagine. pregnancy centre in Doncaster once and the car wouldn’t start. The rental firm we used sent a stretch limousine for me! I was so embarrassed about turning up in it that I made the driver pull over on a dual carriageway and I walked the final bit of the journey along the hard shoulder.
We saw lives change. You can’t disown the achievements of New Labour. The wait for a hip operation came down from two years to two months. If you ignore what’s been achieved then you stop people believing in the power of politics to change things.
One of the things Tony Blair made mistakes, but I don’t accept the hatred. I’ve been doing recently is trying to stop the politics of hatred, and that includes from the Left.
it drove me up the wall. When Ed [Balls, her husband] was practising piano At one point he was doing marathon training every Saturday for four hours and playing piano first thing every morning. And I’d be running around trying to find the kids’ plimsolls while he did it.
lying empty because of the Tories. During the There are Surestart centres 2017 election campaign I went to one in Lancashire. There were all these beautiful facilities for kids not being used. It’s incredibly frustrating.
The year before he went on I’d like to take the credit for Ed being on Strictly . I mentioned it as a throwaway comment on Woman’s Hour – “Who knows, he may end up on Strictly.” I think that planted the seed in their minds.
than people The Labour party are more united behind Jeremy Corbyn make out. After the second leadership election we all really pulled together. I think that’s why we did better than expected in the general election.
thought Strictly was really embarrassing. Our youngest child Our line was: your parents are supposed to embarrass you, it’s just that your dad is overachieving.
Tony Blair made mistakes but I don’t accept the hatred. I’m trying to stop the politics of hatred, and that includes from the left