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The antidote to fitness fan Matt Hancock who quit in disgrace after an affair, single Ms Coffey, 50, has more in common with her Labour predecessor John Reid.
He once called smoking one of few pleasures left on sink estates and in working men’s clubs.
Coffey, a Roman Catholic, was raised in Liverpool. She went on to study chemistry at Oxford University then worked in finance for Mars and as a BBC manager.
She was elected as MP for the safe seat of Suffolk Coastal in 2010, helped in winning the nomination by Liz Truss whose constituency is nearby.
That started a close friendship – Coffey ran Truss’s campaign and has been rewarded with Health plus the deputy PM role.
In David Cameron’s government she had been Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then business minister Michael Fallon.
Later assistant chief whip and Deputy Leader of the Commons, she joined Environment as a junior minister in 2016.
Like Truss, she campaigned to remain in the EU but later changed her mind. She is known both as a safe pair of hands and for speaking her mind.
In June 2020, Coffey challenged England footballer and free school meals campaigner Marcus Rashfords. In a tweet to her he had said: “Think about parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown.”
She hit back: “Water cannot be disconnected though.”
Known in Westminster as a workhorse with an eye for detail, she is best known outside Parliament for nights out.
Last year Coffey joined the then Education minister Will Quince to sing the Dirty Dancing hit (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life at the Conservative Party Conference.
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