Why a website?
In one word: accountability. You, my constituents, have a right to know what I do as your Member of Parliament - at Westminster, in Stoke, on your behalf, to represent you and to try to improve life in our city.
You vote me into Parliament. You pay my salary through your taxes. You have a right to know. I am not mandated. I try to do the best I can to serve this city and the individuals, companies and organisations that make up this constituency.
I have been your Member of Parliament for twenty six years. You may have gained some impression of what sort of MP I am from the local media, and word of mouth, from what I say and how I vote in Parliament. Or you may not have done so. This website offers the opportunity for me to talk directly to you.
I hope that it will help me to do a better job in serving you.
What will it include?
Updates on my work and views on national and local issues: climate change, the credit crunch, the future of our schools in Stoke, regeneration, the state of the economy, etc.
If you have any comments on any of the material on my website, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd like to hear from you.
Who am I?
I’ve lived in North Staffordshire for more than thirty years. I came to live Cheddleton from London with my family (four children, now in their thirties and forties, plus five grandchildren). My children were educated in Leek, Cheddleton and Alton, and, after 1981, in Stoke-on-Trent, at St. Thomas' Primary School, and Sir Thomas More High School.
I became the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Leek in 1975, and Principal of the Tattenhall Centre for Education (Cheshire Country Council). I lost the 1979 General Election, but was elected to the County Council (for the Werrington ward), and became the Chair of the Libraries and Arts committee.
I was chosen as the Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Stoke Central in 1981 and came to live in the city, in Hartshill (Yoxall Avenue), then Penkhull (Bakewell Street) and now since 1994 in Victoria Street, Hartshill.
At Westminster I have been an opposition Whip (1985-6), was a member of the Treasury Select Committee (1983-5) and then Shadow Arts & Media Minister from 1986-1997, when I became the Minister for the Arts.
I introduced in 1992 the Right to Know Bill, a private members' bill, which, though unsuccessful, became the fore runner of the Freedom of Information Bill.
I am a member of the UNISON Group of MPs; I am vice chair of the All Party Heritage Group, a Chair of the History Group and of Parliament First, an All Party Group that campaigns to restore the balance between Parliament and the Executive - the Government. This balance has swung, in my view, far too far towards Government in recent years so that Parliament is often little more than a rubber stamp for Government.
I believe that it is important that an MP, while being loyal to his or her party, retains an independent mind when necessary. In recent years I have voted against the Iraq War, against new Trident missiles, against detention without charge whether for 90 or 42 days, and against the 10p tax.
I have wonderful staff without whom I couldn’t do my constituency work: in Stoke, Barry Stockley (for 25 years a City Councillor and leader of the City Council) follows up constituency issues and campaigns; Jan has worked in my Stoke office since 1985 and deals with individual cases and letters; and this year I have taken on Carrie, part-time, to work on campaigns. In London, Katharine deals with all CSA, tax credit and asylum and immigration work. She also deals with new technology (this website, and Caseworker, a way of dealing with and filing cases on the web which is beyond me) and my work in Parliament.
I will update this website regularly and will write at greater length on issues such as regeneration as they arise.
Work, before I became an MP
Between leaving school and University I worked in a variety of jobs:
In a Cyril Lord carpet factory in Northern Ireland
As a waiter
As a kitchen porter
As a caddy on a golf course
On a travelling fairground
As a folk singer and guitarist
I read English Literature at Cambridge University and augmented my grants by working in clubs, restaurants, and on Ulster Television as a folk singer.
After Cambridge I worked in the film industry for eight years, writing and producing short films, and as an editor, negative cutter and sound recordist on documentaries.
I wrote screenplays for Harry Saltzman (most of them even filmed) and two stage plays: in 1974 for the new Arts Council Horseshoe Theatre in Basingstoke and, in 1988, for the Theatre Upstairs, at the Royal Court in London.
I was principal of the Tattenhall Centre in Cheshire, an educational centre run by Cheshire County Council. Tattenhall run week-long residential courses on which pupils and teachers can work alongside artists - these courses gave early work to Andrew Motion (later poet laureate), Alan Hollinghurst (Booker Prizewinner in 2007), Adrian Henry, Adrian Mitchell, and Scottish poet and playwright Liz Lochhead.