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Friday, 28 December 2012

Merry Christmas and here's to a drier 2013

It's been an amazing, if wet, run up to Christmas. I never tire of eating mince-pies and celebrating across the constituency. To all those Santas whose knees I kindly didn't sit on, and everyone who put together events for the festive season, thank you - and may the New Year bring health and happiness to all.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

MPs get real in the boxing gym

Sky Ringside's  Johnny Nelson, former WBO Cruiserweight champion, put me through my paces, watched by boxing commentator legend, Adam Smith
Ok, ok, so it's been ages since I've blogged. Yes, yes, I've been busy, and 'doing' got in the way of blogging about it. But anyone who's suffered a minor blog-lapse will know that once you know you've let things lapse, it becomes an awful lot harder to face things and get back into it again! What's prompted this? A similar experience in the gym this morning. Pushing pens around in parliament and even running around the constituency is no substitute for proper regular exercise and, like updating my blog, I'd, er, let things slip a bit. But I was forced back into the gym to face the extent of the rot this morning, thanks to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Boxing 'MP's Taster Session' I'd organised.

The session at Fitzroy Lodge Boxing Club was designed to help highlight the social impact of boxing to decision-makers, show MPs who had perhaps never ventured into an amateur gym what it is all about , provide us with somewhere to keep fit, as well as support the club and link the young boxers there up with politics.

Fitzroy Lodge Boxing Club has produced fighters like David Haye, and is just minutes away from Parliament. But it is a different world. It's vital that us MPs can escape the Westminster Bubble, and few places are more gritty and real than an amateur boxing gym - so, in a way, this is also about building a bridge between the Westminster bubble, and the real world outside that it is supposed to serve. If politics was a bit more connected with reality, perhaps a few more people would feel like voting, and getting involved.

We all had a great, if gruelling work out, and special thanks must go to the fantastic Kate Hoey MP, in whose constituency the gym lies, and who has been such a long-term advocate for boxing and sport in general. We are hoping that this is is only the beginning and the start of a 'twinning' relationship between Fitzroy Lodge and Parliament, helping politics, in its own small way, to keep it real while we're in Westminster.  

You can follow the All Party Parliamentary Group on Boxing at @appgboxing

Thanks Johnny Nelson, and Mark for expert tuition!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Brailsford Brothers light up Brentry and the lives of many

With Brentry's heroes, Lee and Paul B

Seldom am I more proud to be the MP for Bristol North West than on the night of the Brailsford Brothers' Christmas Switch-on in aid of the Wallace and Gromit Appeal. I've seen the lights on their mum's house on Oakbourn Road get more and more, and the crowds get larger and larger as each year goes by. After being featured in a Channel Four Documentary last year, this year, the extravaganza reached new hights with some outstanding performances from local artists, which held us all spell-bound.

I first came across Lee and Paul when I was out canvassing in Brentry, one scorching hot September day. It was once of those boiling hot days left over from mid-summer, and I was amazed to find the two brothers working away in their garage in the heat , on Father Christmas light displays. "It's a bit early, isn't it?!" I asked, incredulously. Then they told me of the mammoth task they undertake each year in transforming their mum's house into a winter wonderland. It takes months.

They also told me how they fork out for the electricity bill from their own money, in order to raise funds for the Wallace and Gromit appeal. For years in succession we wrote to the energy company to ask them to give them some help on the bill, since it was for charity. Appallingly, we never managed to persuade them. Now, thanks to some superb sponsors, the brothers have some help in putting on the big Brentry Christmas Light Up.

The event certainly kickstarts my Christmas, and makes me tremendously proud to be the MP for this amazing community.  The Brailsford Brothers are on twitter @brailsfordxmas;   you can go to their website to donate:  or text text rixy88 and £1, £5 or £10 to 70070.

Lee and Paul Brailsford, and all the team, thank you so much for making our Christmas so special, and raising thousands of pounds over the years for all those children helped by the Wallace and Gromit Appeal.