Whether you know him as a former Labour Party shadow Chancellor, Strictly Come Dancing contestant or Good Morning Britain presenter, Ed Balls has certainly had a varied career.
The 55-year-old (who turns 56 on Saturday 25 February) has made the rare move from politics to showbiz since losing his seat in the 2015 General Election. Only the likes of Gyles Brandreth and Michael Portillo have managed to straddle these two worlds in recent times.
But what you might not know is that Balls is one half of a political power couple. His wife, Yvette Cooper, continues to sit in the House of Commons as a Labour MP and shadow Home Secretary. The pair have just revealed that they took in a family of Ukrainian refugees in April 2022, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the Eastern European country.
So who is Ed Balls’s wife - and what has he revealed about the Ukrainian refugee family the couple are sharing their home with?
Who is Ed Balls?
Ed Balls is perhaps best known for his stint on the shadow frontbenches in the House of Commons. He was shadow Chancellor during the Ed Miliband opposition years, taking on Conservative Chancellor George Osborne from 2011 to 2015.
But he had already had a successful career in politics for more than 15 years by the time of his appointment. He was Gordon Brown’s economic adviser from 1994 until he became the MP for the West Yorkshire seat of Normanton (now Morley and Outwood) in 2005, which meant he had a front row seat for the first half of the New Labour years under Tony Blair.
Just a year after becoming an MP, he entered Blair’s cabinet as Economic Secretary to the Treasury. When Brown replaced Blair in 2007, he became Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families - a role he held until the 2010 General Election that saw Labour ejected from power by the coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
He stood during the Labour leadership election after the 2010 defeat, but lost out to Ed Miliband. He was initially appointed shadow Home Secretary before being promoted to shadow Chancellor in 2011. That year also saw the very first ‘Ed Balls day’ - a viral event that it now marked every year.
After losing his seat to Conservative politician Andrea Jenkyns, Balls kept a relatively low-profile. He became the chair of his hometown football team Norwich City - a position he held until 2018.
But his re-emergence came in 2016 when he took part in Strictly Come Dancing. Alongside Katya Jones, he won over audiences and judges with his high-effort dances, which included a version of ‘Gangnam Style’.
Balls has since written an autobiography, fronted TV documentary series, and become a part-time presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. But he still retains an interest in politics, occasionally commentating on Labour Party politics.
Is Ed Balls married?
Ed Balls has been married to Yvette Cooper since 1998. Cooper, 53, is Labour’s shadow Home Secretary in the House of Commons.
The daughter of prominent trade unionist Tony Cooper, she has been a member of Parliament since the New Labour landslide in 1997. Her seat - Pontefract and Castleford - neighbours Balls’ old seat.
Before entering politics, Cooper served as an adviser to then-shadow Chancellor (later Labour Party leader) John Smith, Harriet Harman and future US President Bill Clinton. She also worked as the Independent’s chief economics correspondent from 1995 to 1997.
After getting elected, Cooper served in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Her most prominent roles were Housing and Planning Minister, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
But it is her time in opposition that has seen Cooper become a Labour Party grandee. She took over the role of shadow Home Secretary from her husband in 2011 - a post she held until 2015 and now holds again under Sir Keir Starmer.
Following an unsuccessful campaign to become party leader in 2015, she moved to Labour’s backbenches during the Jeremy Corbyn opposition years. She still held a prominent role as the chair of the home affairs select committee of MPs between 2016 and 2021.
Now, she shadows controversial Conservative Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Away from politics, she has three children with Ed Balls with the pair living in both London and Castleford.
Is Ed Balls looking after Ukrainian refugees?
Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper have recently revealed that they have been looking after Ukrainian refugees since April 2022. The pair are sharing their home with a mother and her two daughters.
Balls told The Sun that the family has friends nearby in Castleford and that they have been back to visit Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, where the family’s father and grandparents remain. But he has also revealed that his Strictly connections have helped the family to settle into UK life.
His former Strictly dance partner Katya Jones has been giving them dance lessons. One of the daughters, Yeva, recently won a competition at the famous Blackpool Tower Ballroom with another Ukrainian dancer called Zakhar.
The Sun quoted Yvette Cooper as saying: "Yeva and Zakhar are amazing dancers and it’s been inspiring to see them training every day and winning competitions despite everything that has happened."