Regarded as Liz Truss’s closest friend at Westminster, Therese Coffey has landed a central role in the new Prime Minister’s administration.
As well as being appointed as Health and Social Care Secretary, Ms Coffey is stepping up to become Ms Truss’s second-in-command as Deputy Prime Minister.
The 50-year-old former work and pensions secretary was widely expected to be rewarded with a key job in the Cabinet, having thrown her weight behind Ms Truss’s Tory leadership bid early on.
— Thérèse Coffey #LizforLeader #PutinMustFail (@theresecoffey) July 11, 2022
The pair’s alliance is thought to stretch back to their post-university politics days, and was cemented when they were both elected as MPs of near-neighbouring eastern England constituencies in 2010.
Aside from geographic vicinity, with Ms Coffey’s Suffolk Coastal patch almost bordering Ms Truss’s South West Norfolk seat, they have a state education in common, as well as studies at Oxford, though several years apart.
Another thing the duo share is their love of karaoke, with Ms Coffey known to host boozy Westminster singalongs for MPs and staff.
She came under fire when a video of her and welfare minister Will Quince singing (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life at the Conservative Party conference surfaced in 2021.
Labour called the timing of the performance, as the £20-a-week universal credit uplift was being slashed, “an insult and a disgrace”.
She also drew criticism for defending Boris Johnson on media rounds, including denying his knowledge of harassment allegations against Chris Pincher before he was appointed deputy chief whip.
Apart from broadcast appearances and leading the vocals at karaoke sessions, Ms Coffey is said to be a private person.
As well as being a music and football enthusiast – she is a Liverpool fan – Ms Coffey reportedly enjoys a cigar.
Born in 1971 in Lancashire, Ms Coffey went to school in Liverpool before heading to Oxford and then to University College London to do a PhD in chemistry.
Before entering politics, she worked in finance for confectionery giant Mars and on the corporate side of the BBC.
She made two failed attempts to enter the European Parliament before securing the safe Tory Suffolk Coastal seat in 2010.
What a few days with the honour of joining @BorisJohnson 's Cabinet as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I was delighted to attend my first Cabinet meeting at No 10 with my mate @trussliz showing me the ropes. pic.twitter.com/gcE15r3N3D
— Thérèse Coffey #LizforLeader #PutinMustFail (@theresecoffey) September 10, 2019
A Catholic, Ms Coffey voted against same-sex marriage and extending abortion rights in Northern Ireland.
She landed her first government role in 2012, holding various posts including junior minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Becoming Deputy Prime Minister is quite a promotion for Ms Coffey, who only joined the Cabinet when she was appointed work and pensions secretary by Mr Johnson in September 2019.
At the time, she celebrated the moment by tweeting a photo of herself and Ms Truss, saying: “I was delighted to attend my first Cabinet meeting at No 10 with my mate @trussliz showing me the ropes”.
The new Prime Minister clearly has confidence that her long-time ally, with her reputation for a strong work ethic and attention to detail, can handle the brief and help her steer the Downing Street ship through choppy waters.
Replacing Dominic Raab as Deputy PM, Ms Coffey’s primary duties are to stand in at Prime Minister’s Questions and chair the Cabinet if Ms Truss is absent.
As Health Secretary, she will face the challenge of sorting a plan for the NHS without the guarantee of extra funds from the soon-to-be-canned national insurance hike.