Ed Balls gets brief to pit combative style against Theresa May

Ed Balls might have wanted the shadow chancellor's job in Ed Miliband's frontbench team - but he will surely relish the opportunity to pit his combative style against Home Secretary Theresa May.

As shadow home secretary Mr Balls has been rewarded with one of the plum opposition jobs, with a wide-ranging brief that puts him firmly at the front rank of Labour politicians.

It may also allow him to break free of the ties that bind him so closely to Gordon Brown, in a way that the Treasury job may not have made possible.

Edward Michael Balls was born on February 25 1967 and educated at Nottingham High School, Keble College, Oxford and Harvard University, where he went on to be a teaching fellow.

He put his fearsomely abrasive intellect to use as an economics leader writer and columnist on the Financial Times before, in 1994, becoming an economic adviser to Mr Brown when he was shadow chancellor, beginning their enduring relationship.

When Tory Cabinet minister Michael Heseltine wanted to mock a Gordon Brown doctrine at the Conservative conference, he brought the house down with the line: "It's not Brown's, it's all Balls."

When Labour swept to power in 1997 Mr Balls went with his boss into the Treasury, becoming first the Chancellor's personal economic adviser and then from 1999-2004 chief economic adviser to the Treasury as a whole.

He married Yvette Cooper in 1998 and the couple have three children.

Switching to the limelight as an MP, Mr Balls won the Normanton seat for Labour in 2005 and narrowly retained it in a re-shaped form as Morley and Outwood this year, taunting journalists that he had robbed them of a "Portillo moment" by not losing out to the Conservatives.

After 2005 Mr Balls rose through the ranks of government becoming Economic Secretary to the Treasury in 2006 and joining the Cabinet as Children, Schools and Families Secretary the following year.

Throughout his time, both in the backroom for Mr Brown and as an MP and minister, Mr Balls had a reputation for an abrasive and pugnacious loyalty that won him as many enemies as friends.

In the aftermath of the election defeat this year Mr Balls laid into Education Secretary Michael Gove and was credited with highly effective opposition to his plans for scrapping Labour's Building Schools for the Future programme.

Mr Balls' bid to succeed his mentor Mr Brown ended with his third place in the leadership contest this year.

Coming third again, this time in the shadow cabinet poll, has at least won him the chance to shine in one of the most high profile briefs at Westminster.