IN 2001, when Tom Watson, then 34, was first elected as the Labour MP for West Bromwich, he was a rarity - a Member of Parliament who grew up with computers. He was the first or second MP to have his own blog.
"In my adolescence we had the Sinclair ZX and the BBC Micro," he says. "As a young guy I was obsessed with coding." Alongside the computer in his family home in the West Midlands was politics.
"We discussed politics around the kitchen table as a boy. My family was all political, though not professionally." He did a degree in politics at Hull and then worked for the electrical and engineering union – "Still the best job I ever had" – and the Labour Party. When the West Midlands Rover factory was threatened with closure, he became involved with the government task force set up to try to stop it. And then, because he knew the people and had a political background, when the MP for West Bromwich announced he would stand down, "People said, you should go for this."
As a new MP, Watson stayed in touch with the people he knew in organisations like Mysociety and maintained his interest in digital issues until his appointment to the cabinet office gave him a chance to be "progressive with digital policy". After that, he says, "I made it my single purpose."