How a top Tory broke her foot in a football clash with a Labour MP - and worked on it for a week before she realised
When Rachel Maclean signed up for a women’s football training session earlier this month she thought stinging attacks from her political opponents would be left in the Chamber.
But the 52-year-old got a sharp shock when an on-pitch clash with Labour MP Alison McGovern left her with a broken foot... although it took her a week and a diagnosis from a fellow Conservative to realise.
Maclean - an aide to a Home Office minister - jumped at the chance to play as she had never tried her hand at football before. “Of course, when I was at school, girls were not allowed to play football,” she tells PoliticsHome. “We had to play netball which I absolutely hated and was rubbish at.”
After a “brilliant” training session, learning ball control and a few tricks, the female MPs and staffers were pitted against each other for a bit of tackling practice. It was then that disaster struck. “I was going in for a very aggressive fast tackle with the member for Wirral, Alison McGovern, who is actually quite experienced at tackling, as I found to my cost,” Maclean explains. “She tackled me to the ground. I fell over and that was it.” But she adds: “I didn't think I’d done anything to my foot until really late in the afternoon when it started to hurt and swell up.”
What followed was a week of agony during which Maclean spoke in the Commons, worked a whole constituency day and attended a school visit, among other things. She got a simple bandage from Boots and hoped the pain would subside. She said: “I was just thinking ‘gosh my foot is hurting. I hope it’s going to get better. But I really haven’t got time to go and get it looked at because I’m just too busy. Where on earth will I fit it in? I’ll have to let someone down. I can’t do that’.”
Finally, she was cornered by Tory MP and experienced nurse Nadine Dorries after a late night vote - who took one look and told her to get it X-rayed. A week after the clash with McGovern, the Redditch MP - who was elected just last year - had it confirmed: her foot was broken.
A source told the Sun that McGovern - a Liverpool fan - was left “mortified” when she found out the about the injury, and sent her opponent a bunch of flowers.
But the diagnosis - and a walking boot she will have to wear for six to eight weeks - has not slowed Maclean down one bit. She continued her Home Office work in the chamber since she found out on Tuesday and over recess this week will be toiling in her north east constituency.
“It has given me an appreciation for the difficulties people who are not mobile face in their daily lives, I think perhaps more than I had before,” she says. “It does make it more challenging and it makes you realise how lucky you are to walk most of the time.”
One pal noted: “She’s a hardy lass - she’s been hobbling around for two weeks. She thought she’d bruised it but it was bloody broken! She’s a good girl, Rachel. She’s been working through it like a trouper.”
They added: “I wouldn’t want to be kicked by one of those lasses!”
Thankfully for the FA, Maclean insists the scrape has not put a block on her budding football career. “I think you should get back on the horse, as they say, get back onto the pitch,” she laughs. “I was actually quite enjoying myself, so I think I’ll try to get back into it when I get better.” On McGovern, she adds: “I think she owes me a debt that I need to settle on the pitch. I need to even up the score.”