The son of a docker and shopworker, John was born in Liverpool in 1951 before his family moved south because of work. He received his first degree from Brunel University and a Masters from Birkbeck College, London University.
He first worked as a production worker on the shop floor, before being employed as a trade union official for the National Union of Mineworkers and subsequently the TUC.
In 1981, he was elected as the GLC councillor for Hayes and Harlington and became Chair of Finance responsible for GLC's £3 billion budget. He was also deputy leader to Ken Livingstone.
Following the abolition of the GLC, John became the Chief Executive of the Association of London Authorities, eventually the Association of London Government, representing all the London Boroughs in relations with central government and Europe.
In 1992, he fought his home town seat of Hayes and Harlington but lost by 54 votes. He immediately launched a campaign to win the constituency and in 1997 won the seat with a 13,000 majority with one of largest swings to Labour in the country. Since then, Labour has held the seat with over 60% of the vote.
Locally John describes himself as a community MP, living and working in his constituency. He has been acknowledged by political friend and foe alike as an immensely hard working local MP on behalf of local constituents and for championing local community issues such as the threat of expansion at Heathrow airport and its impact on local communities.
In Parliament John is the Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs. Within the Labour Party he is the Chair of the Labour Representation Committee, a rank-and-file organisation for Labour Party supporters and trade unionists.
He is also a leading member of a number of All Party groups within Parliament including groups representing individual trade unions, such as PCS, RMT, FBU, Justice Unions and the NUJ as well as topic groups on a wide range of issues such as the Irish community, the Punjabi community, endometriosis, and Kenya.
He is Chair of 'Public Services Not Private Profit', a campaign which brings together 16 trade unions and several campaigning organisations to defend public services against privatisation. He is a prominent member of the Stop The War Coalition, and has been a consistent campaigner in Parliament against the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
John is married with a ten year old son and with two adult daughters from a previous marriage, and has two grand children.
In his time he enjoys theatre, cinema, reading, football and cricket, but more actively he enjoys sailing on the Norfolk Broads, cycling, and playing endless games of tennis and football with his inexhaustible son.