He was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister without Portfolio by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in October 2016 and then became Campaigns and Elections Chair in February 2017 before being appointed as the new Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in June following that year's general election. He is a member of the Unite Trade Union, the Co-operative Party and the Christian Socialist Movement.
Born and brought up in Manchester, Gwynne was educated at Egerton Park Community High School (now called Denton Community College) in Denton, Tameside College of Technology in Ashton-under-Lyne, North East Wales Institute of Higher Education in Wrexham from 1992 to 1995 and the University of Salford from 1995 to 1998, earning a BA in Politics and Contemporary History.
At the age of 21, he became England's youngest councillor, when on 2 May 1996 he was elected on to Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, representing the Denton West Ward for the Labour Party. He was re-elected in 2000 and 2004, when he topped the poll in an "all out" election resulting from boundary changes in the borough. From 1998 to 2001, he chaired the Denton and Audenshaw District Assembly and during 2003–4 he chaired the Resources and Community Services Scrutiny Panel.
On 5 May 2005, at the age of 30, Gwynne became the youngest Labour MP in the 2005 Parliament. He was appointed to the House of Commons Procedure Committee in June 2005 and, despite having only been elected six months earlier, on 10 November 2005, Gwynne was promoted to become a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to The Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC, as Minister of State for Criminal Justice and Offender Management at the Home Office. Between July 2007 and June 2009, he served as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP. During this period he was also elected chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and led delegations of British MPs to Israel and the Palestinian territories. In June 2009, he became Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, then Ed Balls.
In October 2010, Gwynne became a Shadow Transport Minister, with responsibility for passenger transport. In the Opposition front bench reshuffle of October 2011, he was appointed to the Shadow Health team by Ed Miliband, and was reappointed in September 2015, following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.
Gwynne is involved in the campaign for justice for the victims and families of the Tainted Blood Scandal, reaffirming his commitment to the cause on World AIDS Day 2016. He said in 2016: "This scandal saw thousands of people die, and thousands of families destroyed through the negligence of public bodies".
Gwynne took a lead role in organising Labour in the 2015 Oldham West and Royton by-election which was seen as an attempt by the Conservative Party to reinvent themselves as the party of working people, and of reaching out into the parts of the north of England which had not been fertile political territory for them in recent decades Gwynne said he hoped "I can do the memory of Michael Meacher proud by helping to return a Labour MP for the seat". Labour's Jim McMahon comfortably held the seat with a 10,000-plus majority and increased his share of the vote.
Referred to by longtime-ally Andy Burnham as "one of the Labour Party's best campaigners and a strong voice in Greater Manchester", Gwynne was chosen to run Burnham's mayoral campaign in Greater Manchester. After supporting Burnham to be selected as Labour's candidate over favourite, Tony Lloyd, Gwynne remained as lead on Burnham's campaign in 2017.
In 2010, Gwynne introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act to restrict the activities of vulture funds. Vulture funds buy the debts of poor countries, usually at a significant discount, and wait until the government has received relief from foreign creditors. As debtor countries have usually long defaulted on the loans, the vultures sue for the full debt – plus costs and interest – in courts around the world. This world-leading legislation prevents vulture funds making exorbitant profits out of debt restructuring of heavily indebted poor countries, limiting how much vulture funds can sue for in UK courts to the amount they would have got if they had taken part in debt relief. The UK government estimates the Act will save £145 million over six years. Similar legislation has now been passed in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
News of the bill's success was warmly welcomed by charity and religious groups. "This bill clips the wings of the vultures who prey on vulnerable nations and who drive them deeper into debt and poverty", said Richard Vautrey, vice-president of the Methodist Conference.
In 2016, Gwynne was invited to give a keynote speech on the ways to tackle vulture funds and the damage they cause to developing nations at the 135th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva.
Gwynne was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet in October 2016, working in the opposition Cabinet Office team and becoming the spokesperson for the Shadow Cabinet in media appearances. In November 2016, he took a key role in helping to reform the proposed constituency boundaries as part of Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill drawn up by MP Pat Glass, and presented the Disability Equality Training (Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers) Bill which sought to provide support to disabled users of Taxi services. The latter Bill aimed to ensure that all taxi and minicab drivers understand their duties under the Equality Act 2010 and aimed to improve the experience of getting a taxi for many people living with a disability. The bill received cross party support but due a filibuster by Conservative MP's Sheryll Murray and Tom Pursglove it was not able to be voted on. In response to this, protests were organised at Murray's constituency.
It is hoped that the measures will still be implemented due to support from Transport Minister, John Hayes, who has met with Gwynne and is considering adding measures to the Police and Crime Bill to protect taxi users with guide dogs, which the Government hope will gain Royal Assent in April 2017. As part of the Police and Crime Bill, the Government will be updating statutory guidance on safeguarding (including in relation to taxis and private hire vehicles). This also gives the Government an opportunity to update and strengthen the existing non-statutory guidance relating to taxis on accessibility issues within a single document. Hayes has asked his officials to conduct an analysis of local authority performance on the assistance dog and wider accessibility issues, and will be writing to each council on their performance to improve on both training and enforcement.
In 2017, Gwynne was appointed to lead Labour's campaign for the Copeland by-election following the resignation of Jamie Reed. Gwynne focussed the campaign on the Conservatives plans to cut services at West Cumberland Hospital, and moving some hospital facilities including maternity servicies 80-miles away to Carlisle. In January 2017, it was announced that the by-election would take place on 23 February to correspond with the by-election in Stoke following the resignation of Tristram Hunt.
In February 2017, Gwynne was promoted to Elections and Campaign Chair whilst retaining some of his Cabinet Office duties and spokesperson role. He shares this new post with colleague Ian Lavery.
During the 2017 general election campaign, Gwynne memorably clashed with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Sky News, calling Johnson a "pillock" in a debate over Brexit policy.
Following the 2017 general election Gwynne retained his Elections and Campaign Chair role but was promoted to the role of Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, replacing Grahame Morris.
He is the son of sports commentator and reporter John Gwynne. He married Allison Dennis in March 2003 in Tameside, and they have two sons and a daughter.