Described as "all sharp suits and sharper elbows" by a Times diarist at the time of his selection for the safe ex-mining area seat in 1997, he is a model New Labour man. From 1999 until the election he was parliamentary private secretary to Chancellor Gordon Brown.
A former chief of media operations at the TUC, employment has been one of his chief interests: he was a member of the then select committee on educatio and employment. He has campaigned against low pay, for the minimum wage and employee rights.
He defended the Government's New Deal programme for the young and long-term unemployed, warning that the alternative would be "a generation who do not do jobs but do cars, neighbours' houses and drugs instead".
Educated at a comprehensive, Lady Lumley's in Pickering, and an independent, St Peters, York, he won a scholarship to Christ's College, Cambridge. He has worked for a PR consultancy for public sector and voluntary organisations and has been running the Commons' House Magazine. Pressures of his new post might curtail his journalistic career.