I studied Economic History at Exeter University, before completing a post-graduate diploma at the Loughborough College of Librarianship. I held numerous different jobs between my graduation and my election to parliament, including as a labourer in a brewery, an operative at Rugeley Power Station, a Teacher, a School Librarian, a Bank Clerk, as well as running my own Antiques Auction Business for nine years.
I have been a Labour member for 55 years. I have also been active in its sister party, the Co-operative Party, which I worked for as a political organiser for a number of years.
Although I grew up in Cheltenham, I moved to the Black Country in 1982, and was elected as a councillor in Sandwell in 1992. In my eight years on the council, I served as Chair of its Finance Committee, and then as its Deputy Leader.
I was elected as Member of Parliament for my home constituency of West Bromwich West at a by-election in 2000, and I am honoured that my constituents have re-elected me as their representative five times since.
I still live in Tividale, with my wife, Jill. Outside of parliament, I am a keen swimmer and walker (often accompanied by a dog) as well as being a lifelong supporter of Cheltenham Town FC, and of Gloucestershire County Cricket club. I have also retained a strong interest in antiques and local history.