Flint was one of the 101 female Labour MPs elected at the 1997 United Kingdom general election. She served in the Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as Minister for Public Health from 2005 to 2007, Minister for Employment from 2007 to 2008 and as Minister for Housing and Planning in 2008. Flint then served as Minister for Europe during the time of the introduction of the Treaty of Lisbon into UK law before resigning, citing disagreement with the leadership of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
In 2010, she was elected to the Shadow Cabinet and Ed Miliband appointed her Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. From 2011 to 2015, she was Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. After coming third in the running for her party's deputy leader in 2015, Flint returned to the backbenches after not being reappointed to the Shadow Cabinet by Jeremy Corbyn.
After campaigning for remain in the 2016 referendum on membership of the European Union, Flint (who represented a Leave-voting constituency) accepted the result of the vote in order to "allow the voices of her constituents to be heard". She lost her seat of 22 years to Conservative candidate Nick Fletcher in Boris Johnson's victory at the 2019 general election.
Early life and career
Flint was born on 20 September 1961 in Twickenham, Middlesex. She was educated at Twickenham Girls' School, and Richmond Tertiary College before earning a degree in American Literature and History and Film Studies from the University of East Anglia. 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.
She began her career with the Inner London Education Authority, as a management trainee from 1984 to 1985 and as a Policy Officer from 1985 to 1987. She was head of the Women's Unit at the National Union of Students from 1988 to 1989, before joining Lambeth Council as an Equal Opportunities Officer from 1989 to 1991, and then Welfare and Staff Development Officer from 1991 to 1993. From 1994 to 1997, she was the Senior Researcher and Political Officer for the GMB Union.
Flint was first elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom in the 1997 general election as one of the record-breaking total 120 women who won seats as MP's that election. She was re-elected at the 2001 general election, the 2005 general election, the 2010 general election, the 2015 general election and 2017 general election. Along with several other Labour women MPs, she was a member of a tap dancing troupe known as the Division Belles (a play on the term "division bell"). She is a member of the Fabian Society and of Labour Friends of Israel.
In 1999, Flint became Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Peter Hain while he was Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before in 2002 becoming Parliamentary Private Secretary to Dr John Reid, while he was Leader of the House of Commons and Minister without portfolio.
Initially joining the government in June 2003 as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, Flint was moved 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.
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 tuberculosis and HIV, and oversaw campaigns to tackle obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart 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 reclassified magic mushrooms as a Class A drug. Flint pushed through the bill despite some challenges and objections from peers and MPs such as Dr Brian Iddon, plus disputed use of a scientific study by Swiss academic Dr Felix Hasler.
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, coming sixth in the election.
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. Flint was also appointed to the new position of Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber.
On 24 January 2008, Flint was promoted to Minister of State for Housing and Planning, and as a result would now attend Cabinet meetings. She was also appointed a member of the Privy Council and she relinquished her role as regional minister. In February 2008, Flint suggested that unemployed council tenants should "actively seek work", as a condition of their occupancy. In May that year, 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."
She was moved to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the October 2008 reshuffle, to become the Minister for Europe. On 31 March 2009 she admitted that she had not read the Lisbon Treaty, the 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.
Flint resigned after the Cabinet reshuffle of 5 June 2009 asserting that Gordon Brown was running a "two-tier government", and believed that she had been treated as "female window dressing" though she had earlier professed her loyalty to the Prime Minister. Flint renewed her attack on Gordon Brown in an Observer newspaper article on 7 June 2009, saying that she was not ashamed of a glamorous photoshoot which had upset Downing Street. She launched a broadside against the Prime Minister, complaining of "this constant pressure, this negative bullying".
In 2005, Flint claimed her constituency home in Sprotbrough in Doncaster 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 in solicitor's 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.
Flint was one of 98 MPs who voted in favour of legislation which would have kept MPs' expense details secret. In an investigation into MPs claims she was ordered by Sir Thomas Legg to repay £572 in over-claimed expenses.
Flint was reelected in the 2015 general election. On 16 May 2015, she announced her intention to seek candidacy for the Labour Party deputy leadership election. Along with Tom Watson, she was seen as being a front runner in the contest. By the time nominations closed on 17 June, Flint had gained 43 MP nominees, second only to Tom Watson, and more than enough to confirm her place in the ballot. She came third.
In the 56th Parliament, Flint was a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Administration Committee, the Education Sub-committee, the Education & Employment Committee and the Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee.
During the 2016 European Union membership referendum, Flint campaigned for remain. She supported Owen Smith in the failed attempt to replace Jeremy Corbyn as party leader in the subsequent Labour leadership election.
In October 2017, Flint defied Labour whips on the EU withdrawal bill. She told BBC Radio 4's Today, "I believe Labour's job is to improve this bill, not kill it as it begins its passage through parliament."
In October 2019, Flint stated her intention to vote for the Johnson government's EU Withdrawal Agreement, contrary to the Labour party's official stance, as Flint said she opposed the inclusion of a "legally binding protection on workers' rights, environmental standards and consumer protection", which was challenged as "objectively false as a matter of law" by the Financial Times' legal commentator, David Allen Green in a tweet.[better source needed]
On 19 October 2019, Flint was one of six Labour MPs, and the only one seeking reselection for the next general election, to rebel against the party line and vote against the Letwin amendment to the government's Brexit deal. She spoke to Isabel Hardman from The Spectator regarding the vote. Many of her constituents praised her for listening to them.
In the November 2019 floods, Flint's constituency was hit with heavy flooding. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited Conisborough and Doncaster and viewed the property damage with Flint, calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to declare the floods a national emergency so immediate financial help could be provided to families in need.
In November 2019, Flint's daughter spoke out about a man subjecting her mother to malicious mailings for nine months. In 2018, she said one death threat had warned her: "You'll be hanging from a rope".
At the 2019 general election, Flint stood for re-election and was one of the many Labour MPs to be defeated, losing her seat to the Conservatives candidate Nick Fletcher after serving 22 years in Parliament. She attributed the defeat to Corbyn's leadership. In her concession speech, Flint told voters that she was "sorry we didn't give you a Labour party you could trust" and attacked the "influential Labour figures, living in North London postcodes, who have brought us to this point." She also said that, "Labour cannot simply be a party of big cities and university towns, nor just the party of the young or devoted remainers".
In the week after the election, Flint appeared on Sophy Ridge on Sunday and claimed that Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry had said that Brexit voters in Northern England were "stupid". Thornberry appeared on ITV News and accused Flint of "making up shit" about her and threatened to take legal action.
In July 2001 she married Phil Cole, a former Labour Party regional officer and public relations professional, a councillor for the Edlington and Warmsworth ward of Doncaster Council since May 2012. They live outside Flint's former Don Valley constituency, in Sprotbrough. Flint employed her husband as her Senior Parliamentary Assistant on a salary up to £40,000. The practice of MPs employing family members was criticised by some sections of the media, on the grounds that it promotes nepotism. Although MPs who were first elected in 2017 were banned from employing family members, the restriction was not retrospective – meaning that Flint's employment of her husband was lawful.
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- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
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- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
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- Appearances on C-SPAN