"Boxing is gritty and real – it’s everything that the Westminster Bubble isn’t": Charlotte Leslie MP
If there’s one phrase that best encapsulates the separation between politicians and the rest of the country is ‘Westminster Bubble’. MPs and journalists love talking about Westminster Bubble stories – that is, stories that have no bearing on the real lives of those that we politicians are supposed to represent.
Indeed, the Westminster Bubble (which sadly does exist) means that that beautiful palace in the middle of London, the so-called Mother of All Parliaments, is increasingly seen as irrelevant and out of touch by millions of people.
But head over the river from the Houses of Parliament and just ten minutes walk away you can find something so far removed that you’d scarcely believe it was geographically so close: an amateur boxing club.
Fitzroy Lodge in Lambeth is like so many boxing clubs – the crooked little door hidden under the railway arches, the musty smell when you go in, and the bags and the ring dimly lit by a flickering light. You just know that it’s been that way for years.
I love boxing. I’ve loved it ever since my mum first took me boxing training, when I was just an angry teenager, looking for a way to release all my pent-up frustration. And, even though I don’t manage to go as much as I’d like, I still love it now.
When it’s just you and the bag, nothing else matters – the intensity of just a few minutes training gets the blood pumping and the mind sharpened in a way that other sports cannot match. Nothing else I’ve ever done can replicate the focus, the energy and the drive required in boxing. It’s gritty and real – in short, it’s everything that the Westminster Bubble isn’t.
As well as being great for physical and mental health, boxing also really matters. Many of our Olympic boxing heroes will tell how it was their local club and its coaches that saved them from a life of gangs, crime, and drugs, and clubs from Fitzroy Lodge in London to the National Smelting Company Boxing Club in my constituency are full of young men and women who have found their salvation in boxing.
In trying to do my bit to bridge the gap between Westminster and reality, I re-formed the All Party Parliamentary Group for Boxing in 2011. The riots of that summer were a stark reminder that we need to think more innovatively if we are to tackle the social problems our country faces, and the APPG will soon publish its report in the social benefits that boxing can provide – in schools, in youth clubs, and in the criminal justice system, there is much more to be done.
The escape that I and so many others find in boxing can be so powerful. If politics is to regain the faith of the public then the hated Westminster Bubble needs to be burst. What better way to burst that bubble than by punching our way straight through it?