Hinterland: Julie Elliott MP
Written by Cultureon 1 September 2012 in
This article is from the August issue of Total Politics
Being an MP must surely be the strangest job you can do. When you represent a Northern constituency like Sunderland you live in two very different worlds. I head down to Westminster on a Monday morning and the first thing I notice when I step off the train at King’s Cross is a rise in temperature. In Sunderland I live near the sea with its cool, coastal air and beautiful beaches, so I always find London a few degrees warmer. I also find the crowds a stark contrast from Sunderland – there’s no space in London.
When I return to Sunderland, usually on Thursday evenings, I feel at home among the people with whom I grew up.
Spare time away from politics is a strange concept, as I don’t have much. My life is very busy and politics, as it always has done, absorbs me.
Like many other MPs, I find it easier to relax around those who know me best. I have a large and growing family, four grown-up children and now two delightful one-year-old granddaughters. If I have spare moments at the weekends, I love spending time with them, although anyone with young children will tell you it can be exhausting.
Other than this, I have always enjoyed live music, so if time permits I go to concerts. This year I’ll be lucky enough to see Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen when they play at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, barely a mile from my house.
But my real passion outside of politics and my family is watching rugby union, and particularly international rugby.
This might seem a strange interest for a woman from one of the strongest footballing regions in the country, but my interest in rugby started when I was very young. My brother, who is 15 years older than me, played tight-head prop for 40 years, so I grew up among the sport. He taught me, at an early age, how to lock heads in a scrum in our back garden. He had clearly wanted a little brother, but got me instead.
I loved watching him play matches at the weekends and I always admired the friendliness of the game. One minute big men are playing a tough game, smashing into each other on the pitch, the next they are back at the clubhouse, having a civilised tea and playing with the children. There’s nothing quite like sport to bring a community together.
As I got older I had the opportunity of going to international matches and I remember at my first match how moved I was by the singing. The stirring sound of the national anthem being sung by thousands of people is at first deafening but is one of the most overwhelming sensations. It left me full of pride. The camaraderie is inspiring and the passion intense.
Being absorbed in a match is the perfect stress-reliever, and one of the few things that can take me away from my other absorption, politics.
Julie Elliott is the Labour MP for Sunderland Central