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It is also why the Beast likes to make himself obnoxious to Conservative and indeed all non-Labour MPs. Skinner insists he has never had a proper conversation with Clarke despite their 47 years together in the House: he will not fraternise with the class enemy. Unlike other champions of the proletariat — Benn, George Monbiot, indeed even Jeremy Corbyn spring to mind — Skinner is of the class he lionises. One of nine children, he grew up in a left-wing Derbyshire mining family and worked for 20 years as a miner and trade union activist, before  being elected to parliament at the age of 38.

Skinner has also earned an undeserved reputation as a great parliamentary wit, although his so-called witticisms largely consist of shouting low-grade abuse at Tories, Labour traitors or parliamentary officials. In a Trumpesque manner David Cameron was “dodgy Dave”, John Gummer “a wart on Mrs Thatcher’s nose”, and David Owen a “pompous sod”. This kind of language is deemed unparliamentary and is why Skinner has been suspended from the Commons more than ten times. For his champions, his rudeness shows how he stands up for the working class, but how it benefits them is less clear. It has become an annual custom for Skinner to shout out some well-prepared quip when Black Rod summons MPs to attend the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords. They are either republican in nature — “tell her [the Queen] to pay her taxes” — or remarks about Black Rod’s attire — his official garb consists of morning coat, breeches and stockings — such as “Here comes Puss in Boots.” Under any other circumstances such remarks would merely be dismissed as infantile cheek but for Skinner’s defenders they amount to a great parliamentary record.

So what has he actually achieved? Through a knowledge of obscure parliamentary procedure, he derailed Enoch Powell’s 1985 private member’s bill to ban stem cell research and an attempt in 1989 to reduce the maximum number of weeks at which an abortion could be performed. Whatever one may think of the issues involved, it is not much to boast about — as he relentlessly does in The Nature of the Beast — after 47 years in parliament. Perhaps Skinner should be thought of less as a national treasure and more as just a cantankerous old lefty.
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September 24th, 2017
6:09 PM
Great piece. Well said Mr Sharpe.

Robert Sharpe
August 30th, 2017
9:08 PM
This sneering old prat supports a political party that has cynically abandoned ordinary English men and women. He is a traitor to his class.

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