I was born in Whitburn, Sunderland, in 1963 and have lived in and around the city all my life, now residing in Roker. Like many local people, the area holds a special place in my heart.
I grew up with my parents and two older siblings in the house where I was born, and where my mother lived until she passed away in 2013. My father was an apprentice joiner at Sunderland shipbuilders before going on to become a blacksmith striker at Wearmouth Colliery.
As a child, I attended Infant and Junior schools in my village before travelling further afield to Seaham Northlea Comprehensive. I then went on to gain a degree in Government and Public Policy at Newcastle Polytechnic, now Northumbria University.
In employment, I became a regional organiser for the Labour Party. I was the Agent for Tynemouth in 1997 and played a central part in the historic victory that year, winning the seat for Labour for the first time since 1945. In 1998, I went to work for the National Asthma Campaign for a year before being given the opportunity to become a regional organiser for the GMB Trade Union. Whilst at the GMB, I went on to work and negotiate with some of Sunderland’s and the region’s largest employers in both the public and private sectors. In this role, I also held responsibility for political matters.
In addition to my many commitments, I sat as a School Governor for Whitburn Comprehensive from 1991 to 2004; being Chair for several years. At different times I have also been a Governor at primary schools across Sunderland and South Tyneside.
In 2010 I was privileged to be elected as MP for Sunderland Central.
When I am not working hard for Sunderland I enjoy spending time with my four adult children and seven young grandchildren, walking along the constituency’s coastline and watching International Rugby Union.
I was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Sunderland Central in May 2010 before being re-elected in May 2015 and June 2017 – it has been a great privilege to represent my home city. I work hard to stand up for Sunderland and to make sure that the voices of the people I represent are heard in Westminster.
During my first years in Parliament I served on the European Scrutiny Committee (2010-15), the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (2011-13) and the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (2015-17). I also served as Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change from October 2013 to September 2015, with specific responsibility for renewable energy, the Green Investment Bank and skills and supply chain issues.
I am currently a member of the Regulatory Reform Select Committee and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. I also serve on several All-Party Parliamentary Groups including Northern Powerhouse, Energy Studies, Infant Feeding and Inequalities, State Pension Inequality for Women, Women in Parliament, Women and Work, Children’s Media and the Arts and Rugby Union.
My political interests include employment and skills, regeneration, health inequalities and education. I also promise to fight Sunderland’s corner at every opportunity, giving our city a strong voice in the region and in Westminster.