THE government on Thursday (31) named Claire Coutinho as secretary of state for energy security and net zero, replacing Grant Shapps who was named defence secretary.
Coutinho, who is the first member of parliament elected in 2019 to be promoted to the cabinet, was previously a junior minister in the education department, responsible for children, families and wellbeing.
The 38-year-old started her career at the investment bank Merrill Lynch before moving to work in social justice policy. Before entering parliament, she also served as an aide to Sunak when he worked as a junior minister in the finance ministry.
Coutinho has opposed the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone by the city’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, which aims to cut traffic emissions by imposing a daily charge on the most polluting vehicles.
Coutinho said that she is delighted to have been appointed energy secretary.
She added that she will be working with prime minister Rishi Sunak to safeguard energy security and bring bills down for families, the BBC reported.
She thanked the team she worked with as children’s minister, and sent well wishes to her successor David Johnston.
“I will work with the prime minister to safeguard our energy security, reduce bills for families, and build cleaner, cheaper, homegrown energy,” Coutinho has posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Coutinho: A rising star
Coutinho, a prominent figure in British politics, is making waves as a rising star within the party, known for her capable media presence and alignment with key policy agendas.
As a staunch ally of Sunak, her recent elevation to a prominent role is expected to bolster public support for green initiatives and reinforce a reputation for administrative prowess.
Born to Indian immigrants, Coutinho’s journey from her education at James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich to her graduation with a master’s degree in maths and philosophy from Oxford University laid the foundation for her impressive career.
She embarked on her professional journey, initially entering the corporate world, including roles at KPMG services network and the Housing and Finance Institute.
Coutinho’s political career took a significant turn when she joined the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a centre-right think tank led by former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith. This experience honed her understanding of policy issues and prepared her for a more active role in government.
Her dedication to the Brexit cause led her to the Treasury as a special adviser during the crucial Brexit negotiations, allowing her to contribute from within to the country’s departure from the European Union.
Elected in 2019 to represent the safe Tory seat of east Surrey, Coutinho’s strong Brexit stance resonated with her constituents, earning her a majority of over 24,000 votes.
Coutinho’s partnership with Sunak dates back to her time as a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) in 2020, solidifying her status as a key aide to the then chancellor.
During the challenging times brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, she played a crucial role in shaping the economic response to the crisis. In addition to her Treasury responsibilities, Coutinho engaged with prominent think tanks, including Onward and Policy Exchange, demonstrating her commitment to evidence-based policy-making.
Coutinho resigned in July from her PPS role over concerns about prime minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the Chris Pincher affair.
Her expertise and dedication led her to appointments as a junior minister at the department for work and pensions (DWP) under the leadership of Liz Truss, and subsequently as the children’s minister under Sunak’s premiership.
While her parliamentary discussions have not yet included the topic of net zero, her welcoming of the appointment of Andrew Griffith as a net zero business champion showcased her support for environmentally conscious policies.
As the new energy secretary, Coutinho’s ascent to a prominent cabinet role marks a pivotal moment in her career, wrote The Telegraph.
With her strong partnership with Sunak and her background in policy and governance, she stands poised to leave a lasting impact on both her party and the country, navigating complex issues and contributing to a more sustainable future, the newspaper added.