Before being elected as the MP for Barnsley East, Michael worked at 10 Downing Street as Chief Political Spokesman for the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He previously worked as a Special Adviser in a variety of government roles including: Transport, Local Government and the Regions; Defence; for the Leader of the House of Commons; and for the Government Chief Whip.
Michael also worked in industry as UK Director of Government Relations for EDS, then a large global technology services business (now Hewlett Packard). Before working in government he was a research officer and later Head of Policy for the AEEU engineering union (now Unite the Union). A former shop steward, Michael is a member of both Unite the Union and Unison.
As an MP during the last Parliament, Michael joined several All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs). He has been: Vice-Chair of the APPG on Heart Disease (working closely with the British Heart Foundation); Vice-Chair of the APPG for Brass Bands; Vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Israel; a member of the Executive Committee of the British-American Parliamentary Group; and a 'Parliamentary Champion' for the Save the Children charity.
Locally, Michael is patron of the Barnsley Independent Alzheimer's and Dementia Support (BIADS) group, the Wombwell Operatic Society, Worsbrough Brass, Elsecar Heritage Railway, People's Sport in Barnsley and The Oaks 150 Colliery Memorial. He is also a member of the Barnsley Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and a proud member of the Royal British Legion (Hoyland and District Branch).
Michael has had regular columns in both the South Yorkshire Times and the Barnsley Independent, and he frequently writes for a variety of Labour journals and blogs, including: Tribune; Labour Uncut; Labour List, Fabian Review; and Progress. 
In between serving as Geoff Hoon's special adviser, he worked for a year (2006-2007) as a corporate/government lobbyist for American multinational Electronic Data Systems (EDS), one of the government's largest IT contractors.
In the Labour leadership election of 2015, he was Andy Burnham's campaign manager. He was also a supporter of Tom Watson for the deputy leadership election.