I was born in October 1982 and raised, along with my younger brother, in South London by my mum.
I went to the local primary, then the local state secondary, before becoming the first person in my family to go to university. My secondary school was not one that typically sent many of its pupils, if any, to university each year, let alone one that pushed them to consider applying to any of our country’s elite universities.
I will never forget one senior teacher’s advice to me upon expressing an interest in applying: “go for it by all means, but don’t put down anywhere stupid like the London School of Economics as one of your preferences.”
So that’s exactly what I did.
With the support of several outstanding teachers, I secured my place at the LSE to study History and International Relations. Like many people who head to university from an ordinary background, I always had a feeling that I didn’t really belong. But I worked hard, did well and was lucky enough to secure funding for an MPhil at Balliol College, Oxford, in the same subject.
When I left university, I went to work for a number of charities and voluntary sector organisations. I got involved with the Child Poverty Action Group to ensure low-income families and children get a better deal. I worked for the Fair Pay Network to raise awareness about in-work poverty and push for action to address Britain’s endemic levels of low pay. And I became a researcher at the Resolution Foundation to develop new ideas about how the enormous wealth our country generates can be more shared more fairly.
I have been lucky. But I know that any success I’ve had has been achieved despite our unequal society not because of it. That’s why I decided to join the Labour Party. I was determined to be a voice for those who do not have privileged access to power and to be part of a movement dedicated to bringing about a fairer and more equal society than the one I grew up in.
In Greenwich, I became a local councillor, serving the area that has been home to Joanna and me for many years and is now home to our two children, Arthur and Edie. I was also a Governor at James Wolfe Primary School in West Greenwich and served on the Greenwich Housing Rights’ Board of Trustees. When our constituency’s long-serving MP Nick Raynsford decided to stand down at the 2015 election, I put myself forward to succeed him.
It was a huge honour to be elected in May 2015 to represent our constituency in Parliament, and it is a privilege that I never take for granted. I’m extremely grateful to all those who have put their trust in me over the years and I am committed to continuing to work tirelessly on behalf of all those I represent in Westminster.