11 things you didn't know about new Welsh secretary Jo Stevens

Jo Stevens
-Credit: (Image: Labour Party)

Keir Starmer has appointed his new cabinet and, as was widely expected, Jo Stevens is the new secretary of state for Wales. The Cardiff East MP will take her seat at the cabinet table and will be Wales' most senior voice in Westminster.

The former lawyer was elected tothe Commons for the first time in 2015 to what was then the Cardiff Central constituency. Then it was a nail-bitingly close seat with Labour and the Lib Dems battling for the seat. In the 2011 Senedd election there had been just 38 votes in it. She moved to the city suburb of Roath after being selected as the candidate and in 2015 actually defeated incumbent Lib Dem Jenny Willott comprehensively with a 11.2% swing and taking 40% of the vote share. The size of the majority, she said at the time, was a huge surprise.

Ms Stevens studied law in Manchester and came to Cardiff for her first job as a trainee solicitor. A mum-of-two, she has lived in all four Cardiff constituencies but left the law firm when elected.

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She has served in the shadow cabinets of Jeremy Corbyn – but backed his rival Owen Smith in the leadership contest – and Mr Starmer. She quit Mr Corbyn's administration because, as an opponent of Brexit, she wanted to vote against triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union in defiance of a three-line whip. In March 2019 she voted against the Labour Party whip and in favour of an amendment which called for a second public vote on Brexit. Here are some things you might not know about Jo Stevens.

1. She considers Sir Keir Starmer a friend

Jo Stevens with Keir Starmer and Vaughan Gething and new MP Kanisha Narayan
Jo Stevens with Keir Starmer and Vaughan Gething and new MP Kanisha Narayan -Credit:PA

It's not just that they're colleagues, the pair have a number of interests in common – football, politics, and law to name three. They previously shared an office in Westminster

2. She's a huge sports fan

Ask her friends to tell you something about her and this is almost always the top of the list. She's a supporter of Spurs and Cardiff Blues, a member of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, and a regular at Cardiff City FC as well as being a darts fan.

3. She's a real ale enthusiast

Jo Stevens looks at Guinness
-Credit:Jo Stevens

Despite being a fan and championing it she's not actually very good at stomaching her booze. "I can drink her under the table," one friend joked. Her choice of tipple is a Guinness in The Four Elms in Roath.

4. Music is a big part of her life

The first album she bought was Queen's Sheer Heart Attack.

5. She loves The Boss

She's a huge Bruce Springsteen fan but has also seen rock band Whitesnake live 11 times.

6. She mentioned Chippy Lane and arf'n'arf in her maiden speech in the Commons

Her first speech was one of 57 heard in the first week of the new Parliament in 2015 so her time allowance was cut and cut as the session ran over, eventually lasting just five minutes instead of 10, but she still managed a reference to Cardiff’s takeaway street of fame – Caroline Street.

"Alongside the world's oldest record shop, Spillers, which opened in 1894," she told the Commons, "and our beautiful Victorian shopping arcades, we have a famous Caroline Street, where early and late-night city-centre revellers enjoy our special Welsh delicacy of chicken curry, arf'n'arf."

7. And her favourite takeaway is...

Something similar – a battered sausage, curry sauce, and chips from Albany Fish Bar.

8. Her political hero...

Jo Stevens speaks to the media during a visit to Tata Steel
Jo Stevens speaks to the media during a visit to Tata Steel -Credit:PA

Is Mo Mowlam for her tireless work on the Good Friday Agreement.

9. She appeared on TV with the Wurzels

Jo Stevens appeared on kids TV show Cheggers Plays Pop alongside The Wurzels

10. In a previous life

She was a peasant girl in the Welsh National Opera's 1978 production of The Magic Flute at Theatr Clwyd.

11. She didn't ever want a frontbench job

When elected in 2015 she said she was happy to be a backbench MP. "I’m not a professional politician – I’m not doing this for a career. I’ve had a career already, a very successful career," she said. She was shadow secretary of state for Wales from 2016 to 2017 and shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media, and sport from 2020 to 2021 before returning to the shadow Wales job.