Barbara Follett, MP for Stevenage, is the latest in our series of monthly columns which feature different views from Broadhall Way Football and politics are very similar. Both are about winning and losing; both require you to support a team and both expe
Barbara Follett, MP for Stevenage, is the latest in our series of monthly columns which feature different views from Broadhall Way
Football and politics are very similar. Both are about winning and losing; both require you to support a team and both expect their players to put up with a good deal of rough and tumble.
Perhaps this is why so many MPs are avid fans of the beautiful game.
This MP is no exception. As a child, I supported my father's team, Manchester United.
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In adulthood I saw no reason to change my allegiance until I moved to Stevenage 11 years ago. Then I transferred my heart and my hopes to the Boro. Now, the Red Devils are just a distant memory and the Stripes are everything.
Like politics, football is full of ups and downs. In 1995-6, Boro won the Conference title but was denied promotion because its Broadhall Way ground was not up to Football League specification. The fact that it would have been by the time the new season started was, in those days, irrelevant.
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Thankfully, no such technicality prevented me from going up to the House of Commons when I won Stevenage in the General Election of 1997.
The Boro were in winning mode that year too. We beat Leyton Orient in the second round of the FA Cup and, after being drawn at home to Birmingham City, played the tie at St Andrews.
Sadly, we lost this 2-0 and the winning combination of Paul Barrowcliff, Barry Hayles and Efe Sodje was broken up and sold.
A year into the new government, Boro were once again on form. The excitement, when we were drawn at home to Newcastle United, was huge. When it went to a replay at St. James' Park, the tension was terrible.
I almost cried with frustration when Newcastle were allowed that goal and the Boro lost 2-1.
But the match made the club's name internationally. As soon as they know that I am the MP for Stevenage, people all the world immediately say, "Oh, you drew with Newcastle United in the FA Cup".
As the 20th century drew to a close, both the Boro and the government were having trouble at the top.
However, things resolved more quickly in football and in 1999, Phil Wallace succeeded Victor Green as chairman.
In 2002, Paul Fairclough's on-off relationship with the club came to an end and Wayne Turner took over as manager.
But Boxing Day 2002 saw the Stripes at the bottom of the league and he was sacked.
At this point, a year in from my second election win in 2001, the parallels between football and politics never seemed greater.
Time after time, success seemed certain and, time after time, it was snatched away.
All you can do, whether a footballer or a politician, is pick yourself up, brush yourself down and start all over again.
That is just what Boro did in 2003-4 with Graham Westley.
At the end of that season we were a few points off the play-offs. By the end of the next, we were in them - just. We even managed to get into the final but lost to Carlisle.
Now, after another year and another General Election, Boro are third in the league with all to play for.
It is a decade after the club won the league and I am full of hope.
I cannot say the same for politics. But who knows, things in the House of Commons, just like things on the football field, can change in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile I am keeping fingers crossed and my lucky striped scarf wound tightly round my neck.