MP Mike is a happy Hammer

Whenever West Ham United are mentioned in the House of Commons, it is likely that MIke Gapes is the man behind it.

The Ilford South MP is a huge Hammers fan, a fact he is never afraid to share with his colleagues at Westminster. Since his election in 1992, Gapes has proposed Early Day Motions paying tribute to the late Bobby Moore, commiserating with the Club's 2006 FA Cup final defeat by Liverpool and another referring to West Ham's escape from relegation in 2007.

When he is not working for his constituents or chairing the All Party Crossrail Group, the former Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman and Parliamentary Private Secretary for Northern Ireland and the Home Office can be found cheering on his heroes in claret and blue.

Born in Snaresbrook, the 60-year-old faced the quandary so many children face when growing up - which football team should he support? Speaking exclusively to West Ham TV in the shadow of Big Ben, Gapes explains all.

"I started supporting West Ham seriously when I was eight, when I had to choose between West Ham and Spurs. That season, Spurs won the double, but I stuck with West Ham and we went on to win the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup and then the World Cup. As far as I am concerned, I made the right choice.

"My brother is an Arsenal fan so I have had to put up with years of grief in the 1970s when we shared a room and his wall was red and white and mine was painted claret and blue. We were both there at Wembley in 1980 when we beat them in the FA Cup final!"

Gapes' career has seen him fill a wide variety of roles akin to a football utility player.

"I was elected in 1992 so I've been MP for Ilford South for 21 years. Before that, I worked in the Labour Party HQ for 15 years and was involved in student politics. I joined the Labour Party when I was 16, so I've done a lot of different things in my life, but for the last five General Elections I've been the MP for Ilford South.

"I have been on the Foreign Affairs Committee for most of my time in Parliament and I chaired it for five years during the last Parliament and am still a member. I spent two years in the Northern Ireland Office between 1997 and 1999, when we got the Belfast [or Good Friday] Agreement signed [which paved the way for the devolution of power to Northern Ireland].

"I was also in the Home Office for a year, but most of my time has been as a back-bencher on various committees and that is what I do, apart from my constituency work."

Having supported the Hammers for more than 50 years, it is hardly surprising that he has many fond memories of visits to the Boleyn Ground.

"I remember seeing Geoff Hurst score six against Sunderland in 1968 - that was one of the first games I got a seat for. I remember Brian Dear's amazing performance and his backheeled goal against West Brom in April 1965 and some of the games when Billy Bonds rampaged down the pitch.

"The Play-Off final last year was an amazing experience and being at the FA Cup final in 1980 was a highlight for me."

Mike Gapes

Mike Gapes MP at the Houses of Parliament

Gapes has played once at the Boleyn Ground, but he is more at home in the House of Commons, where he has shared his love for West Ham on a number of occasions.

"When Bobby Moore died, I proposed an Early Day Motion praising him and paying tribute to him and, a lot later, when we staved off relegation with Tevez and Zamora, I put down an Early Day Motion saying that Sheffield United had gone down because they had lost at home to Wigan and wishing them all the best in the First Division next season. That got me on the front page of the Sheffield Star as a 'gloating cockney MP' so I wasn't very popular in Sheffield."

Gapes is far from being the only West Ham supporter in Parliament too, with fellow Labour MPs for Poplar and Limehouse Jim Fitzpatrick and Holbon and St Pancras Frank Dobson also sharing their love of red with that of claret and blue.

"I can think of a few Hammers in Parliament. Frank Dobson is a fan and I've seen him at games. David Amess, the Conservative MP for Southend West, is a West Ham fan. My former colleague Tony McNulty, who lost his Harrow East seat, is a fanatic and there are a few others that you come across.

"We haven't got a full team, so to speak, but we've certainly got a five-a-side team and that's great!"

Looking forward, Gapes has endorsed the Club's plans to move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford in 2016.

"I am very enthusiastic about it. First of all, I think it's a great stadium. I was there during the Paralympics and also visited the stadium while it was under construction and for anybody who has been to the Emirates, it is the same architects, so I think the sight-lines will be fine.

"I also think the transport links will be much better and I'll be able to get there in about ten minutes from Ilford on the train!

"I think it's good for the Club and it gives us the potential to get to a higher level, but we've still got to get the results and have a team that is worthy of that stadium. I think it's right and I'm in favour of it."