John is the UK government’s independent adviser on political violence and disruption and sits as a non-aligned peer in the House of Lords.
Nearly twenty years in politics and government has seen John forge links across traditional political divides to tackle vitally important issues. After starting his professional life as a journalist, Sheffield-born John became a political communications and public policy adviser to the last Labour government.
He was a special adviser in the Cabinet Office focused on public service and regulatory reform, in the Department for Work and Pensions where he advised then Secretary of State John Hutton introducing mandatory workplace pensions and reforming the welfare-to-work system, and at the department for Business and Energy charged with renewing the UK’s commitment to civil nuclear energy, leading on regional economic development, employment rights and striking major R&D deals to promote advanced manufacturing.
John spent an incredible year as political spokesman for Gordon Brown in 10 Downing Street as the then Prime Minister led the international response to the global recession.
In 2010 he was elected as the Labour-Cooperative MP for Barrow and Furness.
He was re-elected twice, finished his time in parliament as an independent and focused on defence, security, foreign affairs, and building local economies. He is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies and obtained a Masters in International Security and Strategy from King’s College London during his final term as an MP.
Among John’s proudest moments in parliament was leading the campaign to maintain support for the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent, culminating in an overwhelming majority in the key vote in the House of Commons in 2016. As well as keeping the UK safe from nuclear blackmail for decades to come, the nuclear submarine is sustaining many thousands of high-tech engineering jobs building nuclear submarines in Barrow and every corner the UK.
While he was an MP, John trained as a teaching assistant to better understand the pressures facing teachers in the classroom and founded the Furness Future Leaders Academy to help raise the skill levels and aspirations of young people in the area.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recognised John’s experience in analysing and confronting extremism during his time as an MP, appointing him the UK government’s special envoy on countering violent extremism as he left the Commons. His brief was refocused as a result of the pandemic to become the government’s independent adviser on political violence. He was ennobled as Baron Walney in the 2020 dissolution honours list and is undertaking a review for the prime minister and government on the threat of violence and disruption to the political process in Britain.
In the Lords, John hopes to contribute to enhancing Britain’s security, promoting international cooperation and the rule of law as the world rebuilds from the pandemic.
He is determined to continue speaking up on issues important to his local community, particularly the factors needed to make the submarine programme a success in Barrow and the threat of coastal erosion to Walney Island, in Cumbria, which he is deeply honoured and proud to have as his baronial title.
John has three young children who he loves dearly but wishes the youngest would sleep more. He lives between Walney and London with his partner, Isabel.
He is learning Arabic, slowly. He follows Sheffield Wednesday and Barrow AFC, is an occasional crown green bowler and really needs to get back on his road bike.