Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 17:37 UK

Cabinet women's youthful trials

The Cabinet ministers
The magazine interviewed the ministers for its 30th anniversary

Seven female cabinet ministers have talked about their struggles in their twenties, in an interview with a women's magazine.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith remembered cleaning toilets on a ferry so she could go to the Glastonbury festival.

Olympics minister Tessa Jowell said she lived "very frugally" as a student in a condemned flat in Edinburgh.

Company magazine editor Victoria White said it showed that successful women could make it from "humble beginnings".

Ms Smith, Ms Jowell, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, Housing minister Caroline Flint, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Yvette Cooper, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly and Commons leader Harriet Harman were interviewed for the magazine's 30th anniversary edition out this week.

'Bucket of wine'

Ms Kelly said she was concerned about the lack of women in politics, telling the magazine: "I think a lot of luck is involved, I never imagined I'd end up in the cabinet."

Ms Smith, who used to share a flat with Ms Flint, remembered going out to bars with her flatmate but says times have changed and binge drinking was not so much of an issue then.

It was condemned and had a shared lavatory ... but I didn't expect anything more
Tessa Jowell remembers her student flat

"We'd drink, but not like now, when people think they need to drink a lot to have a good time," she said.

Ms Blears pointed out that wine was served in much smaller glasses then, adding: "I'm only 4ft 11in, so if you give me a huge bucket of wine, it's all over."

She also said she had trouble finding a job after finishing her law degree because she "didn't have the connections" and said her worst work experience was being asked by a senior partner what contraception she used - "He said they couldn't afford to employ a woman who was going to get pregnant," she added.

The now-brunette Ms Flint remembered having peroxide blonde hair in her teens and being "pretty hard up" when she rented a flat, although she had not got into a "lot of debt".

Ms Jowell remembers paying "13 shillings and six pence" - 67.5p - a month for her flat in Edinburgh while she was at university: "It was condemned and had a shared lavatory ... but I didn't expect anything more," she added.


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