I was born into an Irish family in Coventry in 1985 and grew up in Stivichall and Earlsdon, going to St Thomas More’s and Bishop Ullathorne, where I was regularly picked last for PE on account of my awful footballing skills. I started training to join the Royal Marines whilst I was at school, and after several medicals I was told my eyesight wasn’t good enough and that I’d need corrective surgery. That, plus the fact that I didn’t get the grades I wanted at A-level, meant that I ended up taking a gap year so I could fund the surgery.
I followed my old man into the family trade of building pools, which his dad had started doing when he moved the family over in the 60s. It was gruelling manual labour but I’ll never forget the satisfaction of seeing what I’d managed to build over the course of each day. I did night courses at the Butts College to get the grades to get into uni, in case surgery was no longer an option for my eyes. As it happens, more medicals followed and by that point they told me I’d need to wait until I was a few years older and had done more tests on my eyes. So, up North I went.
I studied War & Security Studies at The University of Hull. I wanted something vocational and they had a Royal Naval Reserve base there where you could join even if you had poor eyesight, so I did that. I loved my time in the RNR and got to experience a bit of the military career I had always dreamed of and got promoted pretty quick, too. Whilst in Hull, I got heavily involved in local volunteering and eventually ran for president of the student union, which I did for a year. I later served on the board of the NUS, where I pushed for accessible and lifelong education, and fought against higher tuition fees, before winning an internship in Parliament.
After graduating, I worked in marketing and public affairs whilst I earned the money for the eye surgery, which I eventually had. By that point, my eyes were still so bad that a military career was no longer an option and, having by that point seen first hand how politics can improve people’s lives, I decided to redirect my energies into that. At the 2010 General Election, in the midst of the Expenses Scandal, I ran a campaign across the Midlands to get all candidates to commit to being more honest and open with the public. After that, Parliament itself set up a new outreach service to engage with the public and I was one of the first people brought in to lead engagement across the region.
A big part of that job involved teaching the public how Parliament works, how laws are made and what makes politicians tick; but without the partisan spin. That gave be an appetite to do more, particularly to engage young people in politics and policymaking, in the UK and globally. So I set up my own company, a social enterprise, committed to getting more young people involved and we ended up hosting summits around the world and engaging with real world leaders. During this time I was elected as Vice-Chair of the British Youth Council, which included lobbying for stronger measures to protect young people from cyber-bullying and championing the rights of 16 and 17 year olds to vote, something I still passionately believe in.
As someone who has campaigned against global poverty for years, and who believes that Britain should be a responsible leader in the world, I decided to move my career in that direction, so I went to work for the Global Poverty Project and then for Bond, the UK body that represents charities working in the developing world. Here, I helped push through the law that ensured the UK kept its promises to the world’s most vulnerable people, whilst improving our own standing in the world. After that, I became the first full-time director of the Rising Global Peace Forum in Coventry, where I brought together different people to discuss different ways of securing peace.
I was raised in a family that values knowing where you come from and being decent to people you meet along your way. I have two sisters and one brother, fantastic parents and more uncles, aunts and cousins than I can count. My mum helps people with special needs and disabilities to get by in life, and my dad is a small business owner who has pushed his body to the limit to provide for his family. I have a wonderful wife, who is Italian, and we worry deeply about the longterm affects of short-sighted politics and what could happen if Theresa May doesn’t consider ordinary families when she rushes Brexit. Our two boys are the centre of my entire life and, now that I’m a dad, I’ve never been more invested in ensuring that the society they grow up in is one where the people who make the rules, follow the rules. So, you’ll see that I’ve been all over the place. When I was young, I didn’t set out to get into politics and I’ve never been interested in climbing the greasy pole. I didn’t fall in love with politics, I was pushed. And now I’m ready to jump into something bigger, in the hope that I can help more people. I will only ever serve the people of this this constituency, which I am proud to call my home. It’s time Labour and the Conservatives stopped taking Coventry for granted. That’s why Coventry North West deserves an MP who is loyal, local and looking out for you.