Ruth Kelly: Brown ally takes over Education

The new education secretary
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Indy Politics

Ruth Kelly, the new Education Secretary, was in typically forthright mood last week as she explained plans to cut the pensions of senior civil servants. "They scoop the pensions pot," she explained in her trademark London accent.

The former Bank of England's economist's meteoric rise through the government ranks is remarkable not only because she is only 36, but because since being elected in 1997 she has established her ministerial career while bringing up four young children.

A devout Catholic, Ms Kelly has impressed both the Chancellor Gordon Brown, who she worked with at the Treasury, first as Economic Secretary and then as Financial Secretary, and Tony Blair for her straightforward, no nonsense style.

She is rated as one of the most formidable female performers in the Labour ranks, and at the despatch box has beaten opposition MPs into submission by reeling off statistics and blinding them with complicated economic arguments.

Educated at Westminster School, Oxford University and the LSE, Ms Kelly is one of the cleverest ministers on the government benches. But she is well liked by colleagues because she is not one for airs or graces and has no taste for Labour's political machinations.

Although she has been placed in the Brown camp, she has been careful to steer clear of the manoeuvring in Whitehall.

Ms Kelly is also extremely hard-working, juggling nappy changing with her ministerial job. At the Treasury, where she concentrated on policy, she was able to leave the office early and leave her red boxes in Whitehall.

She may find the requirement to visit schools and universities a tricky proposition as her children are still very young and until now she has tried to get home in time to put them to bed.