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Caroline Louise Flint (born 20 September 1961) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Don Valley since 1997. She served in the Government as the Minister for Public Health from 2005 to 2007, the Minister for Employment from 2007 to 2008, the Minister for Housing and Planning in 2008, and finally as the Minister for Europe from 2008 to 2009, when she resigned citing disagreement with the leadership style of Gordon Brown.

In October 2010, she was elected to the Shadow Cabinet, and Ed Miliband appointed her Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. In 2011, she was moved to become Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

ContentsEdit

 [hide*1 Early life

Early life[edit]Edit

Flint was educated at Twickenham Girls School[1] (the school transferred to Waldegrave School for Girls in 1977) in Clifden Road, Twickenham, andRichmond Tertiary College[1] before earning her BA (Hons) in American Literature and History combined with Film Studies from the University of East Anglia.[2]She joined the Labour Party when she was 17. She was the Women's Officer of the National Organisation of Labour Students from 1982 to 1984.[3]

She began her career with the Inner London Education Authority, as a management trainee from 1984 to 1985 and a Policy Officer from 1985 to 1987.[4] She was head of the Women's Unit at the National Union of Students from 1988–89, before joining Lambeth Council as an Equal Opportunities Officer from 1989 to 1991, and then Welfare and Staff Development Officer from 1991-93.[4] From 1994 to 1997, she was the Senior Researcher and Political Officer for the GMB Union.[4]

Member of Parliament[edit]Edit

Flint is a member of the Fabian Society and has been an MP since 1997.[3] Along with several other Labour women MPs, she is a member of a tap dancing troupe known as the Division Belles.[5]

In Government[edit]Edit

In 1999, she became Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Peter Hain while he was Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry and theForeign and Commonwealth Office before in 2002 becoming Parliamentary Private Secretary to Dr John Reid, in his capacity as Leader of the House of Commons and Minister without portfolio.[3]

Whilst working as Peter Hain's PPS she was criticised by the Government of Gibraltar for allegedly having falsely accused the British Overseas Territory, onSky News, of being engaged in "smuggling on a massive scale".[6]

She joined the Government in June 2003 as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, before moving in May 2005 to the Department of Health, with responsibility for Public Health first as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and from May 2006 as Minister of State in the same role.[3]

As Public Health minister she was responsible for managing government programmes concerning radiation exposure, the potential bird flu epidemic, sex education, and the prevention of communicable diseases such as TB and HIV, and oversaw campaigns to tackle obesitytype 2 diabetesheart disease, and cancer. She was also due to take ministerial responsibility for implementing the smoke-free workplace regulations in all public places resulting from the Health Act 2006, but was moved just a couple of days before it came into force (on 1 July 2007).

During her tenure at the Home Office, Flint embarked upon a campaign to prohibit all sales of magic mushrooms in the UK and reclassify them as a Class A drug.[7] Flint pushed through the bill[8] despite a lack of calls for reclassification on the part of the public and challenges to the scientific material used to justify tighter regulation[9] and objections from Peers and MPs such as Dr Brian Iddon,[10][11] plus disputed use of a scientific study by Swiss academic Dr Felix Hasler,[12][13]

In February 2007, it was announced that she would be Hazel Blears' campaign manager in Blears' campaign for the Deputy Leadership election of the Labour Party following John Prescott's resignation. Blears did not win, finishing sixth in the Deputy Leadership election, but her conduct during the campaign was rewarded with the Cabinet Post of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

In the Cabinet reshuffle of 29 June 2007 Caroline Flint moved to the Department for Work and Pensions where she served as the Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform.[3] Flint was also appointed to the new position of Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber.[3] On 24 January 2008, Flint was promoted toMinister of State for Housing and Planning, and as a result would now attend Cabinet meetings.[3] She was also appointed a member of the Privy Council and she relinquished her role as regional minister.[3]

In February 2008, Flint suggested that unemployed council tenants should 'actively seek work', as a condition of their occupancy.[14] In May 2008 she inadvertently revealed grim forecasts for the future of house prices when she was photographed walking into Downing Street with her briefing papers visible. Close inspection revealed that her document read: "We can't tell how bad it will get."[15]

She was moved to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the October 2008 reshuffle, to become Minister for Europe.[1] On 31 March 2009 she admitted that she had not read the Lisbon Treaty, the controversial document which codifies the rules of the European Union. Critics described her admission as "extraordinary" and "unbelievable," particularly given that the minister's responsibilities include overseeing the introduction of the Treaty.[16]

Resignation[edit]Edit

Flint resigned after the Cabinet reshuffle of 5 June 2009. She resigned claiming that Gordon Brown was running a "two-tier government", and that she felt she had been treated as "female window dressing". An article published by the Daily Mail characterised this position as in conflict with Flint's decision to pose forObserver Woman Magazine. After the photoshoot Flint commented that her looks were a double edged sword and that male colleagues would not be judged in the same way.[17] Only the day before her resignation she had professed her loyalty to the Prime Minister.[18] Flint renewed her attack on Gordon Brown in a newspaper article on 7 June 2009, she told The Observer that she was not ashamed of the glamorous photoshoot which had upset Downing Street. She launched a broadside against the Prime Minister, complaining of "this constant pressure, this negative bullying".[19]

Expenses[edit]Edit

Main article: United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal

In 2005, Flint claimed her constituency home in Sprotbrough as her second home, and a house in outer London as her main home. She sold her outer London home to buy a flat in Victoria, London in 2006. To buy the flat, Flint claimed £1,000 solicitors fees and £12,750 in stamp duty on allowances; the Fees Office paid £7,700 of the claim. The Victoria flat became her second home and her constituency property her main residence.[20][21] Flint was one of 98 MPs who voted in favour of legislation which would have kept MPs expense details secret.[22] In an investigation in MPs claims she was ordered by Sir Thomas Legg to repay £572 in over-claimed expenses.[23]

Personal life[edit]Edit

In July 2001 she married her longtime boyfriend, Phil Cole, a former Labour Party regional officer and public relations professional who has been a councillor for the Edlington and Warmsworth ward ofDoncaster Council since May 2012. They live in Flint's Don Valley constituency.[24] Between them they have three children - a son from Cole's former relationship and a son and daughter from Flint's first marriage to Saief Zammel, a Tunisian stockbroker.[25] Flint obtained a divorce in 1990 after Zammel was arrested on charges of violent disorder and was subsequently deported.

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