I was born in the old King George Hospital in Ilford in January 1976, which makes me too young to remember Wilson and Callaghan in government.
Although I am half Indian - the son of a refugee from Uganda - my step-father, a printer on the Mirror Group at the time, took me on before I was two years old. The Brady-bunch maths meant I grew up with six brothers and two sisters.
Over the years, both my parents had been Labour Councillors and the Labour movement was branded deeply into me. My early memories are largely political - the Falklands war, the 1983 General Election when my mother stood for Parliament in Woodford, the miners’ strike. And then the printers’ dispute erupted and the personal nature of politics hit home. While my father supported comrades at Wapping, he had no idea that Robert Maxwell was about to make him redundant having pinched his pension. I’ll add my mother did NOT assault six police officers at Wapping. They made it up and the case was thrown out of court.
I remember lots of marching from my childhood, for miners, against the poll tax, for the GLC, against nuclear weapons, against apartheid - mostly against Margaret Thatcher in one way or another. I recall very clearly the first of the two occasions when politics has made me cry. Although it seems silly in hindsight, I hated Toryism so much that I was utterly crushed by the 1992 election result. I attended both the local comprehensive school and - in spite of my parents’ grim response - the local grammar school, though I dropped out altogether at the age of 17 to become a pianist. This seemed like a very good idea at the time.
Over a few years I discovered that my talent was not increasing, yet the pint pulling, call centre work and other strange jobs I did to support my life as an artist was increasing. I was second-jobbing in a dental lab making porcelain teeth when I heard that John Smith had died, the second and last time that politics got through my thick skin and drew tears. In the following leadership election I voted for Margaret Beckett, for what it’s worth, because I thought she had been very dignified as leader in that short time.
Eventually, realising my piano playing wasn’t getting any better, I went into artist management as a junior luvvie, which suited my nature for a while. In 2000, it was suggested to me that as I was a long-standing activist for the party, I should consider applying for a job with the party, and so I worked for the London Regional Labour Party as a campaigns co-ordinator until after the 2001 General Election, when I was then appointed researcher and press officer to the Ilford North MP Linda Perham.
In 2002 I was elected to Redbridge Council in Newbury Ward, where I was elected with more votes than any other Labour Councillor in the entire borough. It’s nice to say, and I certainly worked hard, but the truth is two or three other Labour candidates polled higher than me but failed to get elected. At various times I served as group secretary, shadow cabinet member for planning policy and for a short while the cabinet member in that portfolio due to factional in-fighting in the majority Tory group. I stood down from the Council in 2006.
Although I stayed in Linda’s parliamentary office until early 2005, it was while working for her that my life as a writer and as a web-guy began. I became the deputy editor of the Working4anMP website and I was lucky to be offerred an internship on The Independent comment desk one summer. While working in parliament I also began writing Recess Monkey , a site dedicated to the lighter side of political life. I left Linda in 2005 to become a staff writer on Tribune and to fight the Canterbury seat for Labour at the General Election.
In Canterbury, representing a seat that was Tory for I think 131 years, Julian Brazier managed a 5.5% swing against me. I think candidates are supposed to put the very best spin on their results after an election and the trick is to find some other seats that are comparable in some way in which your result comes out well. So nationally it was a poor result, for a Kent Tory seat it was an average result and for a university town it was an excellent result, it’s very much up to you how you read it - but either way it remains a Tory seat at least for a few years more.
That said, while I was the candidate in Canterbury, I moved to the constituency, commuting to London for work. I helped some excellent students build an effective Labour Club at the University of Kent and I made some lasting friendships in a great CLP. We had a great team, we worked hard and we shipped activists over to Thanet South from time to time to help retain a Labour seat on our border (and because the regional party rightly nagged us to do so).
Since the summer of 2005 I have been self-employed as a writer and an internet and communications consultant. I have consulted for a range of organisations including the Campaign for Crossrail, UNISON, Disney and TSO; I have spoken at seminars and presentations on web strategies to charities and public affairs companies and even on an ippr platform at Labour conference in 2006; I co-founded the internet advertising service MessageSpace ; I have written for The Guardian website, the Sky News site, UNISON online; I have commentated on Channel4 News, BBC News, Sky News, More4 News; I co-hosted a radio series on Resonance FM and I was the new media strategy manager for Hilary Benn ’s campaign for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.
In 2006, with a friend, I founded Labourhome , a web community for Labour supporters. Although I am the editor of the site, anyone can register and start writing. I specifically wanted to make a space where all Labour voices are welcome, regardless of how on or off message they might be on a particular issue. I’m very pleased with how it's gone so far and have lots of plans to develop the site in the future. I hope you will take a look and perhaps contribute to the debate there.
That’s me then, in a nutshell. If you would like to get in touch, I’d be pleased to hear from you.