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Julie Elliot MP speaks to the Echo

Down-to-earth Julie Elliott talks to women's editor Linda Colling about her new role as an MP, part of Labour's all female hat-trick team.

Today Julie Elliott took her seat for the first time in the House of Commons for the first act of the new Parliament – the election of the Speaker.

It was a moment she never dreamt she would be part of.

The reality of it all, since winning her seat for Labour in Sunderland Central, still hasn't sunk in.

And the 46-year-old mother-of-four from Fulwell reckons it won't really sink in until the House is sitting properly come next week.

"I come from such an unlikely background to be an MP. It does seem unreal," she says.

"It's like starting any new job. It's a big job and there's a lot to do. It's going to take a little while to get to grips with it and it's very exciting."

Born and bred in Whitburn on a council estate, she is passionate about her city.

"I was born in the house where my mother, Laura, has lived since 1950 in West Avenue," she said.

"I was not brought up in a political family.

"My dad Harold, who died last year, worked at Wearmouth Colliery and my mother was at home looking after us and did a few cleaning jobs."

Her mother is now 79 and immensely proud of her daughter who, after Whitburn Junior School, went on to Seaham Northlea Comprehensive. A divorcee, Julie has an older sister Joan and brother Dennis.

A very down-to-earth woman with 19-year-old twin daughters, a son of 21 and another daughter, 28, who is to marry shortly, she says becoming a politician has somehow evolved around her.

Julie refutes any suggestion that she is a career politician. She went into politics, spurred on by her desire to help people.

She said: "And this is an opportunity to do something more than I was doing. I didn't go to work full-time until I was 38 because I was at home looking after the children.

"Career politicians don't do that. Bringing up children gives you the best experience because you come into contact with all sorts of things.

"Being a mother influences the way you do things. I think it's very relevant to the job I have taken on."

It was while bringing up her children that she gained a degree in

Government and Public Policy at Newcastle Poly.

Then in the 1980s, after marching with thousands of local people to try and save the pits, she was fired to become increasingly involved in the Labour Party.

Then in 1993 she became regional organiser for the Labour Party. She talks of how her biggest challenge as the agent in Tynemouth was to win the seat for Labour in 1997 – an historic victory and the first time the party had taken it since 1945.

It was a four-year campaign and the following year Julie joined the National Asthma Campaign as a regional organiser. She suffers from asthma but says: "I'm not a bad asthmatic and it's controlled with medication."

In 1999 she got the opportunity to become a regional organiser for the GMB Trade Union and in 2004 took over responsibility for Political, Policy Media and Research in the region.

During that time she worked and negotiated with some of Sunderland's largest employers including Littlewoods, the council and the NHS.

Now committed to channelling her time and energy for the people of Sunderland, she says: "My motivation has been Sunderland. It's about improving the lot of people in Sunderland. That's what drives me all the time.

"It's very important for me living in the city. What affects my constituents affects me. This is a new job and there isn't a job description for being an MP."

She believes young women need role models to raise their aspirations and adds: "And now they have three women MPs and all of us are very different characters.

"We have all done things very differently. I think women are doing jobs they wouldn't have considered before."

And being an MP is one of them. As she says, it wouldn't have entered her mind when she left school and became a civil servant at Longbenton.

Her first job with the Labour Party was a real eye-opener: "I began to realise all the different things I could do."

Julie has gained strength from growing up in a village where there is a strong community spirit and a work ethos of people doing things to help other people, pulling together through thick and thin.

Being a woman is no barrier to achieving big things and that is one message she wants young women to take on board: "I don't think that should stop you doing anything. It's about choices and it's my job to make sure they have more."

A perfect day for her is having time to stroll by the seashore: "I like the beach. It's where I do my thinking.

I love living beside the beach and I like watching rugby and reading but I don't get an enormous amount of time to do any of these things.

"I do like to be at home and doing family things. That's my kind of switch off and I like to bake."

And just as Julie rolls her sleeves up to roll out the pastry she is doing just that as a new MP and revelling in her role.