Over the last 7 years I have been asked many times about how I came to be your MP here in Stalybridge and Hyde, here is my story...
I was born in the North East of England, in Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland, in 1980. I come from a loving working-class family. My Dad was a fireman in Tyne and Wear Fire Brigade for 30 years and my Mum worked for Provident, the door-to-door loans company. I have an older sister, Emma, who is now a primary school teacher.
I did well at my local comprehensive school and at 16 went to do my A-Levels at City of Sunderland College. Whilst studying, I was inspired to join the Labour Party by one of my tutors. After College, I was offered a place at Manchester University to study Politics and Modern History.
Moving to Manchester was one of the best decisions of my life. I graduated in 2001 with first class honours, having also experienced politics for the first time by being elected to the Students' Union Executive.
Unsure what to do after graduation but wanting to stay in the area, I took a job working at Stockport Council as an assistant to the Labour Councillors. I had hoped to go to law school, but my plans changed considerably after the birth of my son Jack in January 2003. Jack's mum and I were in a relationship but were not married. Despite our best efforts, the relationship ended in early 2004. Becoming a father at a young age had a significant effect on me.
After working for a year at Stockport, a vacancy emerged for a parliamentary assistant to James Purnell, the then MP for Stalybridge and Hyde next door in Tameside. Working for James and seeing the impact an MP can have nationally and locally was a great experience. During this time, I was also elected to the National Executive (NEC) of the Labour Party to represent young members, serving between 2003-2005. I strongly believe we all have a duty to encourage young people to get involved in politics and the world around them.
In 2007 I was finally able to enrol in law school, now as a mature student, and went on to achieve my Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) at BPP Law School in Manchester. I was delighted to be offered a training contract to become a solicitor with Addleshaw Goddard LLP in Manchester. Addleshaw was a fantastic place to work.
At the local elections in 2007 I was also elected to Tameside Council to represent my local area, the Longdendale ward covering Mottram, Hollingworth, Hattersley and Broadbottom. This was an extremely proud moment. I still keep my name plaque from the Council Chamber in Ashton on my desk in Parliament.
Even more importantly however, in 2008 I married my wife Claire in St Michael's Church, Mottram. We now have 3 further children, Bess, born in 2010, Arthur, born in 2013 and Seth, born in 2015. Claire, Jack, Bess, Arthur and Seth are the most important things in the world to me.
In early 2010, we were all surprised when James Purnell announced he would not seek re-election as the MP for Stalybridge and Hyde. I held strong views on what sort of candidate and MP we needed, and was approached by several colleagues to put myself forward for consideration. The things I had to say began to resonate and, barely a month before the General Election, I was selected as the local Labour Party candidate. In May 2010 I held the seat for Labour, resigned my legal career, and became the Member of Parliament for our area.
Just after the election we moved from Mottram to Stalybridge. I don't get much spare time but when I do I like to walk our two large dogs (Clinton and Kennedy), watch TV shows like Mad Men and Game of Thrones, and grow fruit and veg in my back garden.
I'm motivated by a belief that a compassionate society and a strong economy go hand in hand, and that too often British politics has only offered a choice between the two. There is no doubt that both are essential to the UK's prosperity.
I believe in working hard for our community both in Parliament and here in the constituency. I enjoy talking to residents on the doorstep and at community events.