I studied as an undergraduate and postgraduate at the University of York, and gained my doctorate from the University of Birmingham in 2006. I have taught and researched with the Open University (1990-2001) and for the Hansard Society in association with the London School of Economics (2006-12) as well as teaching at the University of Birmingham since 2000. I have throughout this period worked in 16-19 education and for the BBC as a current affairs commentator.
As a Morrell Scholar at the University of York between 1984 and 1987 I examined the relationship between the work of John Stuart Mill and the arguments used to support campaigns to widen the franchise in nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain.
I was awarded a Research Associateship of the Open University between 1998 and 2001 to examine the determinants of British parties’ attitudes to constitutional reform, and was awarded the PSA’s David Butler Prize in 1998 for research on policy towards electoral reform.
Between 2007 and 2011 the Scurrah Wainwright Trust funded my research into the history of the Liberal Party in the twentieth century, particularly to produce a biography of Richard Wainwright, former MP for the Colne Valley.
My current research continues to focus on recent Liberal Party and Liberal Democrat history, and is also in the field of Birmingham social and cultural history.
In 2014 I was awarded a grant by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd to undertake 'Liberalism in Power', a study of the impact upon their image and fortunes of Liberal Democrat MPs at the 2015 general election of their party's participation in government.