Michael was born in the east end of London, and is one of four sons. His dad was a dock worker, his mum was a proud office cleaner. He became a child actor appearing in Oliver at the age of 12. He careered from one career to another and eventually entered politics in 1998. He represented the West Midlands as a Labour Member of the European Parliament for 15 years, he was vice chair and chair of the Labour Party NEC, and received a Special Service Award from Ed Miliband.
He has been an active campaigner across a wide range of issues and is a trenchant critic of any form of discrimination, a defender of human rights and has worked tirelessly to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He served for ten years as the Co-President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights. Michael co founded the Stonewall Group in the U.K. and was it’s founding chair.
As a relentless campaigner for human rights, he delivered in January 2011, in Turkey, the Hrant Dink Memorial Lecture on Freedom of Expression and Human Rights, succeeding author and social activist Naomi Klein.
Michael received a special service award from the American Association and an Honorary Doctorate from Staffordshire University for his work in the field of human rights. He was awarded the title of ‘MEP of the Year’ in 2007 (for his work in campaigning for human rights) and again in 2012 (in recognition of his work with the RNIB on accessing books). He also received the European Diversity ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Award in 2012, and was named number one in The Independent pink list in 2014.
Michael was awarded a CBE in the 2012 New Year Honour’s list for his work in fighting for equality, and he was elevated to the House of Lords in October 2014. From 2013 until 2016 he served as the Labour Party’s LGBT global envoy.
Michael’s distinguished career as an actor and singer is brilliantly overshadowed by his role as Colin Russell in the BBC´s soap opera EastEnders, a character remembered for being a participant in the first gay kiss in a British Soap Opera.
He recently returned to the show 30 years after his original appearance for two special episodes.
Michael says his life is defined by his 31 years with the man who became his husband, Paul Cottingham, who ended his journey in this life far too early at the age of 50, on the morning of the 24 October 2014.
“In the end and before the beginning of the end, it is only love that sustains”.