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 four young grandchildren, walking along the constituency’s coastline and watching International Rugby Union.
I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Sunderland Central in May 2010 and re-elected in May 2015 - 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.
In the last Parliament, I served on the European Scrutiny Committee and the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee. I became a Shadow Minister in October 2013 in the Shadow Department for Energy and Climate Change, having specific responsibility for renewable energy, the Green Investment Bank and skills and supply chain issues.
I left the Front Bench in September 2015 and became a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. I was also elected to be Chair of the PLP Backbench Housing and Planning Committee, am a Member of the National Policy Forum, having a direct role in the development of Labour Party policy. I also chair the Rugby Union APPG and I am the Vice Chair of the APPG on Infant Feeding and Inequalities.
I promise to continue to fight Sunderland’s corner at every opportunity, giving our city a strong voice in Westminster.