Politician, then banker, now in education, Ruth Kelly tells Peter Stanford about Opus Dei and faith in public life
As the youngest female Cabinet Minister in history, joining Tony Blair round the top table in 2004 aged just 36, Ruth Kelly inevitably made news in Labour’s recent heyday. But it wasn’t only for her age, her gender or even her habit of leaving her ministerial red boxes in the office when she headed home in the evenings to look after her four small children.
Kelly’s faith became a political hot potato. It was widely reported that she was in Opus Dei – and this was in the era of the Da Vinci Code, which gave the impression that everyone in Opus Dei was a crazed schemer, madly whipping themselves while plotting to establish a global theocracy.
In interviews from the time, Kelly refused to confirm or deny membership. In one especially excruciating encounter with The Guardian’s Decca Aitkenhead, while Secretary of State for Education (and therefore the Minister responsible for what went on in the nation’s schools), Kelly tied herself in knots trying to sidestep a question, repeated over and over again, as to whether her religious attachment caused her to regard homosexuality as a sin.