I grew up in Surrey, which in those days was a socialist desert. The Young Liberals were the most radical group on offer, and I was in Scarborough when Peter Hain spoke in support of the armed struggle in South Africa. After graduating in psychology from Cambridge University I spent four years in Vancouver at Simon Fraser University before moving to Oxford in 1979. I have lived here ever since, working as a computer programmer at Oxford Brookes University until retiring in 2015.

I rapidly became involved with the local Labour party, living in a marginal ward and a marginal constituency, and with Margaret Thatcher’s election bringing a stark choice to British politics. I campaigned in every local and national election, held many branch and constituency positions. I attended my first national conference in 1995, the special conference when Tony Blair persuaded the party to adopt the new Clause IV, and every conference from then on.

At the same time I joined NALGO, which merged with NUPE and COHSE to form UNISON, and served as a workplace steward and staff side negotiator for thirty years, defending members at the sharp end of attacks through the Tory years, lobbying for a better deal from Labour, and fighting renewed Tory austerity after 2010. I know the difference that a Labour government makes for working people.

In 1996 I was a founding member of Labour Reform, an informal group of party members who accepted the need for change but were concerned about the degree of central control and the loss of members’ rights. When MPs were barred from the constituency section of the NEC, Labour Reform were instrumental in brokering the original centre-left grassroots alliance, bringing together groups across the left and centre of the party in support of a single slate of six lay activists. In 1998 four grassroots candidates, including Mark Seddon and Liz Davies, were elected.

In the same year, I was elected to the National Policy Forum. In 2000, standing on the grassroots alliance platform, I won election to the NEC, and have been re-elected eight times since then. I have always prioritised communicating with, and speaking for, individual party members, often in the face of institutional obstacles.

I currently serve on the organisation and equalities committees, the business board and the work, pensions and equalities policy commission, and I chaired the disputes panel for nine years. I chaired the NEC from 2009/2010, announcing Ed Miliband’s election in 2010, and have recently been elected as Chair of the National Policy Forum.