Born: London, 1950
Childhood: Orphaned at the age of 12 and brought up by his older sister.
Education: Sloane Grammar School in Chelsea. Left at 15.
early Career: Became a postman and worked his way up the Union of Communication Workers, becoming its youngest leader.
Political career: Became MP for Hull West and Hessle in 1997, joining Cabinet in 2004. Held Cabinet jobs for Work and Pensions, Trade and Industry, Education, Health and then Home Secretary. Failed to become Labour deputy leader in 2007. Became Shadow Chancellor after 2010 election.
Family: Fiercely guards private life. Has been married twice.