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Louise Haigh: a Labour MP to watch

Louise Haigh: a Labour MP to watch
4 min read

At one of Louise Haigh’s infamous birthday parties pre-pandemic, one guest observed that when it came to Labour Party movers and shakers, “everyone was there”.

From Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips through to Momentum founder Jon Lansman. “She just talks to everyone, she’s an operator,” the guest adds. “She’s only young but she’s got amazing contacts right throughout the party.”

While the 34-year-old MP for Sheffield Heeley nominated Jeremy Corbyn for leader and went on to work for him as a shadow policing minister for three years, she actually campaigned for Andy Burnham during the 2015 leadership race, went on to run Lisa Nandy’s 2020 campaign and now works for Keir Starmer in arguably one of the most complex briefs – shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

Her broad base of friends and allies puts her in prime position for a long career in the parliamentary party and her name is often floated as someone with leadership potential. Any suggestion she is keen to set that in motion soon is shut down firmly by friends. She’s loyal to the leader, one ally says.

“People probably think she’s a bit young right now to go for leader herself but to my mind she’s political, has strong links to the unions and is a compelling speaker. You’d definitely put her on the list for the future,” the friend says.

The Northern Ireland brief has won her even more plaudits, this time across the Irish Sea. She was praised for heading to Belfast, to the interface between the Shankill Road and Springfield Road, to speak to community figures following this spring’s street riots – the most violent for years.

One colleague says people warned her against going for safety reasons, but she went regardless, and notably ahead of any other Westminster politician, including Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis.

She is said to have built up good relations with all five main political parties in the region, with some of that “talk to anyone” mentality coming into force. One aide suggests she shines in the brief against Lewis, who is less than popular in the region: a recent poll in the Belfast Telegraph found only four per cent felt he was doing a good job.

Haigh also set up Labour’s most-subscribed training sessions for members – her ‘Good Friday Education’ programme.

“Her shadow briefs have been fairly tough ground for Labour but she builds relationships with people that would not always be sympathetic to the party. And her presence wrong-foots the Tories,” says one colleague, who points to her time as a special constable in Brixton as evidence she can talk about policing with genuine authority. She built up solid relations with the chair of the Police Federation too.

Former Conservative policing minister Nick Hurd tweeted on his departure from politics that she had been “by far and away the best shadow minister I have dealt with in eight years”.

Haigh grew up in Sheffield and went to the independent Sheffield High School, then studied politics at the University of Nottingham. Before being elected as a Labour MP in 2015 for Sheffield Heeley, she worked for a local authority youth service and later for insurance firm Aviva.

One regional journalist says Haigh is also highly regarded outside of Westminster, winning praise in Yorkshire Labour circles for regularly joining forces with other Sheffield MPs to make a bigger noise to government, recently on Israel and Gaza.

And she is fun, or as one friend jokes: “She isn’t quiet.” Haigh is a stalwart of The Mirror’s Labour Party Conference bash and made colleagues on both sides of the House smirk when she had to write a letter of apology to the then-Speaker John Bercow after her female MPs’ football team sneaked into an empty Commons and had a mini kick-about. It might not have been Haigh’s idea, but she did brazenly sit in his chair.

Then of course there’s the hair. Shoulder length and dyed flame red – you can’t miss her – it often attracts comments online, notably from angry men who seem to take offence that a woman with her own style can also fire political shots across the despatch box. “People definitely underestimate how smart she is,” says one friend.  “Give her a brief and she will grasp it. She immerses herself in it.” She’s clearly one to watch.

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