Michael Cashman, the gay Labour MEP for the West Midlands, has confirmed that he will quit as a member of the European Parliament at the next European Election in 2014.

First elected in 1999, Mr Cashman has been Labour’s sole West Midlands’ representative in the European Parliament since 2009.

In a statement, Mr Cashman said:

“It has been an immense privilege to represent the West Midlands and I look forward to the remaining eighteen months of continued hard work.

Since 1999 I have sought to shape legislation to create and protect rights at the workplace, fought for manufacturing industry and campaigned to make the European Union more transparent and accessible for citizens.

I’ve always tried to speak up for those who were not being heard and I will continue to do so. Whether it is the retired couple who have lost their life savings in a dodgy property scheme in Spain or the victims of homophobic discrimination in Eastern Europe, I’ve tried to give them a voice.

At the next election I will have served our region for fifteen years and I think that would be the right time to stand aside for a new team of Labour MEPs”.

Mr Cashman and his civil partner Paul Cottingham have both previously battled with cancer and he told the Birmingham Post:

“Things like that make you think you should spend more time with the people you love”.

In May of this year, Mr Cashman became the first member of the European Parliament to join the Out4Marriage campaign.

In his video Mr Cashman said: “I just wanted to state quite clearly that I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to get married, as well as hetrosexual couples. Equally hetrosexual couples should be allowed to have civil partnerships if they so wish. That is the brilliance of the concept of equality in our society”.

Mr Cashman co-founded gay rights charity Stonewall in 1989 and in 2010 led the calls for the charity to give its support towards equal marriage.

Before going into politics Michael Cashman had long been a household name.

As a child actor he was cast in the role of Oliver Twist in the original run of Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver!

However, he is possibly best known for his role as Colin Russell in the BBC’s long-running soap Eastenders.

His character is best remembered for taking part in the first ever same-sex kiss in a British soap.

Mr Cashman has hinted at a return to the stage after leaving office.