About me

I was born in Leigh, Lancashire, to a family that had been tailors and miners for generations. I was the first in my family to go to university – in Sheffield – where I joined the Labour Party in 1979, and stood on my first mass picket line, with striking steelworkers.

So my story is a Labour story. None of it could have happened unless the post-war Labour governments had given my Mum and Dad the chances their own parents never had. And none of it would be possible without the collective solidarity of the union and co-operative movements.

I’ve always been an activist – from the Anti-Nazi League, and the 1984-5 miners’ strike through to Black Lives Matter and Ukraine Solidarity today. I believe progress comes through linking together the struggles of working people, telling a story of hope – electing Labour governments that achieve real change and mobilising from below to make that happen.

As a journalist at BBC Newsnight, and later at Channel 4 News, I focused on people’s struggles against exploitation and injustice – from China’s migrant workforce, to the Arab Spring and the war in Gaza – and the fight for dignity and respect here in Britain, after years of seeing ex-industrial communities thrown on the scrapheap.

In 2016 I quit TV news in order to be able to oppose Brexit and support Labour in public.

Today I write weekly columns for The New Statesman and The New European – and speak in forums across the world about the need to abandon the economics of fossil fuel and inequality, resist the far right through progressive alliances, and embrace a state-directed transition towards social, economic and climate justice.

In 2019 I campaigned for Labour in some of the toughest Red Wall seats. It taught me that we only win when we stand together – combining a radical offer of economic, social and environmental justice with traditional Labour values on crime, defence and foreign policy. We need to speak the language that working people speak, learn from the struggles of our most excluded communities, and never give an inch in our resistance to racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.

That’s why, when Labour lost, I was one of the first people on the left to support Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign. It’s why I went to Batley to fight the divisive campaign run by George Galloway.

In February 2022 I was in Kyiv until just 36 hours before Russia invaded, helping Labour and the trade unions to build active solidarity with our Ukrainian counterparts. Since then, I’ve been at the forefront of promoting solidarity with Ukraine, and helping Labour develop its defence and security policy in response to the crisis.

My politics? I’m a radical social democrat: for me redistributing power is just as important as redistributing wealth. Socialism should be a project of self-empowerment, led by working class people and their communities, from below. With commitment, determination and ingenuity, I think the UK could become a Zero Carbon Welfare State – as Finland aims to – by the mid-2030s.

My Mum’s family fled pogroms in Poland. My Dad’s family were miners at Astley Green Colliery, whose winding gear brings their memory to life every time I pass it. What I learned from the amazing people who brought me up is this: everything we have, we had to fight for.