I was born in Leigh, Lancashire, to a family that had been miners and tailors for generations. I was the first person in my family to go to university – in Sheffield, where I joined the Labour Party in 1979.
So my story is a Labour story. It happened because the post-war Labour government gave my Mum and Dad the chance of a better future.
I’ve always been active in the struggle for social justice – from the Miners’ Strike through to Ukraine Solidarity and supporting today’s strike wave. I believe progress comes through linking the struggles of working people together, telling a story of hope and mobilising a broad coalition of progressive voters to achieve real change.
As a journalist at BBC Newsnight, and later at Channel 4 News, I’ve reported on worldwide struggles against exploitation and injustice – from China’s migrant workforce, to the Arab Spring and the war in Gaza – to the fight for dignity and respect here in Britain’s ex-industrial communities.
In 2016 I quit TV news so that I could oppose Brexit and support Labour openly. Today I write for The New European, The New Statesman, Frankfurter Rundschau and Social Europe – and speak to forums across the world about the need for a state-directed transition towards social, economic and climate justice.
The 2019 election taught me that we only win when we listen. We need to combine the offer of economic, social and environmental justice with traditional Labour values on crime, defence and foreign policy. That’s why, when Labour lost, I was one of the first people on the left to support Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign.
In February 2022 I was in Kyiv until just 36 hours before Russia invaded, together with Senedd members from Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru, building solidarity with our Ukrainian counterparts. Since then, I’ve been at the forefront of promoting solidarity with Ukraine, and helping Labour develop its defence policies in response to the crisis.
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 communities, from below.
What I learned from the working class family and community I grew up in is: everything we have, we had to fight for.