Angela Eagle: Chess champ who could checkmate Corbyn

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LONDON: A junior chess champion in her youth,Angela Eagle at 55 is a skillful lawmaker known for her debating prowess, who is now challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the Labor Party leadership following the Brexit vote.

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If the former trade union staffer wins the support of Labor members, Eagle would also become the first openly gay leader of one of Westminster’s main political parties.

“Her loyalty to her party and her aptitude in the House has led her to be thought of as a ‘unity candidate’ — someone who could bring the Labor Party membership, MPs and leadership together after the crisis,” the left-wing Daily Mirror said.

Born on February 17, 1961, in Yorkshire in northern England, Eagle has an identical twin sister, Maria, who has also followed the political path.

Angela Eagle attended Oxford University, where she graduated in politics, philosophy and economics — a degree that has launched many British political careers.

She then worked in the Confederation of British Industry, a big business lobby, before joining the Confederation of Health Service Employees trade union.

She was first elected to Parliament in 1992 and joined then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government in 2001 but lost the spot in a Cabinet reshuffle a year later.

She served as a junior minister for pensions under Blair’s successor Gordon Brown before the 2010 general election which toppled Labor and brought Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to power.

As a figure from the leftist spectrum of the Labour party, Eagle never really associated with the more center-left policies of Blair and Brown.

She has been criticized for failing to predict the full impact of the global financial crisis on the British economy in 2008, telling parliament that warnings about a recession were “lurid fiction.”

And eight years ago, she became the first member of parliament to enter a civil partnership, forming a union with her long-term female partner.

‘Comfortable in her skin’

Eagle was tapped or the opposition shadow cabinet by Labor leader Ed Miliband in 2010 who made her shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

Under Corbyn she was the shadow first secretary of state — implying seniority over other frontbench spokespersons — before she and a host of others quit the shadow cabinet over what they considered Corbyn’s failed leadership in Britain’s EU referendum with Labor in favor of remaining in the bloc.

Her sister, Maria, is also a Labor MP, making them the first twins elected to the House of Commons.

She has mainly respected the Labor party line on key votes. One exception was last year when she voted against Corbyn in favor of Britain joining air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria.

While Corbyn has never seemed a convincing orator against Cameron in the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions debate, Eagle has performed well when called to deputize for him.

“Eagle is comfortable in her skin and can speak persuasively to all types of voters — from the Northern working classes to the (London) Shoreditch hipster,” wrote John McTernan, a Daily Telegraph columnist and former Blair policy strategist.

“She would be just what Labor needs,” he added.

In announcing her resignation from the shadow cabinet last month, Eagle wrote a scathing letter to Corbyn saying she was “devastated by the result of the EU referendum” in which Britain voted by 52 percent in favor of leaving the European Union.

“Too many of our supporters were taken in by right-wing arguments and I believe this happened, in part, because under your leadership the case to remain in the EU was made with half-hearted ambivalence rather than full-throated clarity. “In such turbulent times, we need a leader who can unite rather than divide the Labor Party.” AFP

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