I was born in Croydon, UK on May 26th 1950. But as my father’s Anglo-French car components company (he was Chief Accountant) moved to Plymouth in Devon, all my childhood was spent in Plymouth, Devon. I went to a local catholic direct grant school, St Boniface’s College (although we weren’t catholics). I loved the opportunities for debating, political history and drama offered by the school: and had a very happy and stable childhood: with loving parents and my sister, Jackie, who sadly died young. My father and mother were both active in the Labour party, and strong early supporters of Britain being in Europe.
My generation had opportunities to get to university denied my parents and millions of others. I was lucky enough to get to Balliol, Oxford to read politics, philosophy and economics. But I spent too much of my time immersed in student politics (supporting Labour which was then as so often highly unfashionable) and in the Oxford Union. I won the presidency of the Union in 1972. I was fortunate to get a reasonable degree in PPE, despite these distractions.
The early seventies were dominated by the debate on Britain’s European future. I campaigned for British membership, and, in 1975, I organised the youth vote for ‘Britain in Europe’, the official campaign.
Throughout this time I juggled my career, as a young official with the European Parliament, based in Luxembourg, and my political ambitions which led me being selected as the candidate for Labour in the 1974, 1979 and 1983 elections.
As Labour’s standing slumped and as I was given more responsibility in the EP I opted for a European rather than a national career. Later from time to time I was tempted back to the UK, particularly during the Blair ascendancy, but I decided to stick with the EP.
I had had an early break working for the EP’s Budgets Committee in the 1970s just when the EP won budgetary powers: I wrote the EP resolution rejecting the 1980 Budget. My first management job came in 1984 (with the Committee on Energy, Research and technology, chaired by the extraordinary french politician, Michel Poniatowski). The Socialist Group in the EP appointed me as their Secretary general in 1989, just as Labour and its MEPs were shifting to a pro-European position. Klaus Hänsch, the respected German Social Democrat politician asked me to head his Office when he became EP president in 1994. I served as Secretary General for the Parliament from 1997 to 2007.
And then I decided it was time to do other things. So ten years to the day after my appointment I stood down and started a new chapter in my life which has led to me writing so far five books (sometimes with others) which we present next, and countless articles, chapters of books and commentaries. I have also taught (at the College of Europe in Bruges) and lectured, mostly on European political themes. And when possible I have campaigned for the progressive vision of Europe which is sometimes too weakly asserted. In 2014, I organised the European campaign of Martin Schulz in the first Europe-wide campaign for the presidency of the Commission. We present information about this aspect of my life, and links to the organisations I support later. I was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen in 2007.
And at last I was able to get a better balance in my life.
Since 1973, I have lived in Luxembourg, while spending time in Brussels, the Belgian coast and, during the last two decades, in Southern Spain.
Most importantly in March 2015 I married Jean my partner of 33 years standing.