||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (May 2015)|
Skinner outside Parliament, October 2011
|Chairman of the Labour Party|
13 June 1988 – 27 October 1989
|Preceded by||Neil Kinnock|
|Succeeded by||Jo Richardson|
|Member of Parliament
18 June 1970
|Preceded by||Harold Neal|
|Born||Dennis Edward Skinner
11 February 1932
Clay Cross, Derbyshire, England
|Spouse(s)||Mary Parker (separated)|
|Alma mater||Ruskin College|
Dennis Edward Skinner (born 11 February 1932) is a British Labour politician who has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Bolsover since 1970. He was Chairman of the Labour Party in 1988–1989 and served as a member of its National Executive Committee.
Born in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, Skinner is the third of nine children of coal miner Edward Skinner, who was sacked after the 1926 general strike. Skinner himself worked as a miner for over twenty years and became a NUM leader and Clay Cross Labour Party councillor. He is known for his left-wing views, acid tongue and for never missing a Commons session. He is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs.
Skinner was educated at Tupton Hall Grammar School after passing the Eleven-plus a year early. He worked in the mines from 1949–70, at Parkhouse Colliery in Clay Cross until it closed in 1962, then at Glapwell Colliery near Chesterfield. He joined the Labour Party in 1956.
Union and political career
Skinner was a member of Derbyshire County Council from 1964 to 1970, and a Clay Cross councillor from 1960 to 1970. He was leader of the Derbyshire area of the National Union of Mineworkers between 1966 and 1970. He attended Ruskin College in his thirties, after attending a preparatory course run by the NUM at the University of Sheffield.
Skinner was first elected MP for the safe Labour seat of Bolsover at the 1970 general election and has retained the seat since then. He was a strong supporter of the National Union of Mineworkers and its leader Arthur Scargill in the 1984-85 miners' strike. Skinner is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group.
Skinner has voted in favour of equalisation of the age of consent, civil partnerships, adoption rights for same-sex couples, and to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and has a strongly pro-choice stance on abortion. On 20 January 1989, he "talked out" a move to reduce the number of weeks at which termination of a pregnancy can be legally performed in Britain by moving a writ for the Richmond by-election. On 7 June 1985, he "talked out" a Bill by Enoch Powell which would have banned stem cell research by moving a writ for a by-election in Brecon and Radnor.
In 2000, Skinner denounced former ally Ken Livingstone, at the time a Labour MP, who had failed to win the party's nomination to be a candidate for Mayor of London, and had then decided to run as an independent (non-party) candidate instead, and urged his supporters to help Green Party candidates get elected. Skinner said that Livingstone had betrayed (Labour) party activists in his Brent East constituency, whom he said had fought for him "like tigers" when his majority had been small: "He tells them he's going to be the Labour candidate, then he lies to them. To me that's as low as you can get". He contrasted Livingstone with the official Labour candidate, Frank Dobson, saying that Dobson was "a bloke and a half... not a prima donna ... not someone with an ego as big as a house". Skinner said Livingstone would "hit the headlines, but you'll never be able to trust him because he's broken his pledge and his loyalty to his party... The personality cult of the ego does not work down a coal mine and it does not work in the Labour Party".
In 2003, Skinner was one of a large number of Labour MPs who voted against the Iraq War; he later rebelled against the party line when he voted against government policy to allow terror suspects to be detained without trial for 90 days. In 2007, Skinner and 88 other Labour MPs voted against the government's policy of renewing the Trident Nuclear Missile System.
Skinner has been suspended from Parliament on at least ten occasions, usually for "unparliamentary language" when attacking opponents. Infractions have included:
- In 1984, accusing Margaret Thatcher of bribing judges.
- In 1992, referring to the Minister of Agriculture John Gummer as a "little squirt of a Minister" and a "wart".
- In 1995, accusing the government of a "crooked deal" to sell off Britain's coal mines.
- In 2005, when referring to the economic record of the Conservatives in the 1980s, making the remark, "The only thing that was growing then were the lines of coke in front of boy George and the rest of the Tories", a reference to allegations originally published in the Sunday Mirror of cocaine use by the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne (though, in the Commons, Skinner referred to the News of the World).
- In 2006, accusing Deputy Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst of leniency towards remarks made by opposition frontbencher Theresa May "because she's a Tory".
Queen's Speech jokes
Known for his republican, anti-monarchist sentiments, Skinner has regularly cracked jokes, usually about the Royal Family, during the annual Queen's Speech ceremony. He does this upon the arrival of Black Rod (the symbol of royal authority in the House of Lords) to summon MPs to hear the Queen's speech in the Lords' chamber. The best known, according to the New Statesman and other sources, are listed as follows:
|1980||None||Skinner and other Labour MPs blocked the entrance of Black Rod who was attempting to summon the Commons for the prorogation of Parliament. The cause being the Conservative government announcing increased rents for council houses, which the Labour Party wanted more information on.|
|1987||"Tell her to sell up!"||A reference to the tightening of belts in the United Kingdom.|
|1988||"Eh up, Here comes Puss In Boots!"||To Black Rod Sir John Gingell.|
|1989||"Oh, It's a good outfit!"||To Black Rod Sir John Gingell.|
|1990||"I bet he drinks Carling Black Label."
"It tolls for thee Maggie."
|Spoken to Black Rod; reference to a popular advertising campaign at the time. Later he made a second comment which was a reference to the impending departure of Margaret Thatcher.|
|1992||"Tell her to pay her tax!"||In reference to the calls for the Queen to pay income tax.|
|1993||"Back to basics with Black Rod."||A reference to the "Back to Basics" campaign by the then Conservative government of John Major.|
|1995||"New Labour, New Black Rod!"||A reference to Labour's election campaign slogan, "New Labour, New Britain" and to new Black Rod Sir Edward Jones.|
|1996||"New Labour, New Black Rod!"||Told the same quip as the previous year.|
|1997||"Do you want to borrow a Queen's Speech?"||Told to Black Rod.|
|2000||"Tell her to read the Guardian!"||The Guardian newspaper was campaigning at the time to repeal various laws relating to the monarchy.|
|2001||"You're nowt but a midget!!"||Told to new Black Rod Michael Willcocks to much laughter in the chamber.|
|2003||"Bar the doors."
"Did she lock the door behind her?"
|Skinner suggested that the Speaker "bar the doors" after Black Rod had arrived, a practice that is used to block late-arriving MPs from casting their votes after the division bells have been sounded. After the command he also said "Did she lock the door behind her?" to laughter from other MPs. The tongue-in-cheek suggestion by Skinner was scoffed at by Speaker Michael Martin.|
|2004||"Aye, you've got a job to aspire to."||Spoken to Black Rod.|
|2005||"Has she brought Camilla with her?"||Referencing Charles, Prince of Wales' recent marriage.|
|2006||"Have you got Helen Mirren on standby?"||Reference to the portrayal by Helen Mirren of Elizabeth II in the 2006 film, The Queen, to much laughter.|
|2007||"Who shot the harriers?"||Referring to a recent event in Sandringham, where two protected hen harriers had been shot near a royal property. Prince Harry and a friend had been questioned by police over the incident.|
|2008||"Any Tory moles at the Palace?"||Referring to the recent arrest of Conservative MP Damian Green in connection with an investigation about him receiving confidential information from a civil servant at the Home Office who was formerly a Conservative Party candidate. To which Black Rod quipped, "I shall miss you, Dennis", receiving laughter from other MPs. The 2008 State Opening of Parliament was Michael Willcocks' last as Black Rod.|
|2009||"Royal Expenses are on the way."||Reference to the parliamentary expenses scandal.|
|2010||"No royal commissions this week."||Reference to the recent newspaper story in the News of the World which revealed that the former Duchess of York had taken cash payments for introducing businessmen to the Duke of York. Interestingly this time, whether through error or purpose, he made his one-liner in the middle of Yeoman Usher Ted Lloyd-Jukes' (who was filling in for an ill Black Rod) speech. To which the Yeoman Usher replied at the end, "Thank you, Dennis".|
|2012||"Jubilee Year, double-dip recession, what a start!"||Referring to the Queen's Jubilee year and that the United Kingdom had just entered into a second recession. This quip was responded to by a mixture of laughter and some shouts of "Shame" and "Absolute Disgrace".|
|2013||"Royal Mail for sale. Queen's head privatised."||This caused a great deal of laughter within the House of Commons and was in reference to the coalition government's proposed privatisation of Royal Mail, going against recently deceased Margaret Thatcher's promise that she was "not prepared to have the Queen's head privatised".|
|2014||"Coalition's last stand"||Referring to the last 11 months of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition (and its final parliamentary session) before the election in May 2015|
|2015||None||Skinner later revealed to the press that he was too preoccupied with preventing newly elected SNP members taking his traditional seat on the opposition front bench. He told The Telegraph: "...I was engaged in an activity today to ensure that the Scot Nats weren't going to take over that front bench... I was up at just after 6 o’clock and I had to do it yesterday." |
He often tells of turning up for work at his colliery after he had been elected as an MP, refusing to see it as his new occupation. This is the reason Skinner gives for refusing to miss any sitting in the House of Commons, saying that "if you missed a shift at the pit, you would get the sack". He also refuses to adopt the pairing system in which he can agree a mutual abstention with a Conservative MP, saying he won't cover for them whilst they "go swanning off to Ascot or to their boardrooms". In the 2004–2005 sitting of the House he claimed the least expenses for an MP who served the full year. He has never been a member of an All-Party Parliamentary Group; does not eat alongside parliamentary colleagues in the Commons dining room; does not take trips or holidays paid for by others; never drinks in the Commons Bar; and stays in the House of Commons during the Queen's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament, as he advocates outright abolition of the House of Lords.
He usually sits on the first seat of the front bench below the gangway in the Commons (known as the "Awkward Squad Bench" because it is where rebel Labour Party MPs have traditionally sat) in a tweed jacket (whilst most other MPs wear suits) and signature red tie. He gained the sobriquet "the Beast of Bolsover" for falling foul of the procedures of Parliament.
- Roth, Andrew (26 March 2001). "Profile:Dennis Skinner". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 9 June 2010.
- "Profile: The beast that roars from the pits: Dennis Skinner MP, incorruptible class act". London: The Independent. 12 December 1992. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
- "Dennis Skinner MP, Bolsover voted strongly for the policy Homosexuality - Equal rights". publicwhip.org.uk. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
- "House of Commons Friday 20 January 1989 The House met at half-past Nine o'clock". www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
- White, Michael (22 May 2008). "Stem cells: When the Beast of Bolsover snookered Enoch Powell". The Guardian (London).
- Aitkenhead, Decca (17 June 2012). "Dennis Skinner: 'I was formed in the pits and the war'". The Guardian (London).
- Michael White, Political Editor (20 April 2000). "Old leftwing ally Skinner turns on Livingstone". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
- "Trident vote: Labour rebels". BBC News. BBC. 14 March 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
- "David Miliband's Labour leadership bid wins backing of Dennis Skinner". The Guardian (London). via The Press Association. 10 September 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
- 36 Labour MPs nominate Jeremy Corbyn, newstatesman.com
- "Skinner thrown out of the Commons - again", The Guardian, 20 April 2006.
- "Dennis Skinner’s best Queen’s Speech jokes". New Statesman. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 1:52.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 2:32.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 3:54.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 5:02.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 6:35.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 18 March 2013. Event occurs at 7:11.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 8:07.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 8:42.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 9:19.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 9:52.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 10:56.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 10:51.
- "Appointment to the post of Black Rod". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 17 December 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
- State Opening of Parliament 2009 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth including Black Rod. 19 November 2009. Event occurs at 5:15.
- Dennis Skinner- A collection of quips to Blackrod from 1989-2013-State Opening of Parliament. 16 March 2013. Event occurs at 14:06.
- "Skinner's 'recession' heckle angers Tory MPs". BBC News. 9 May 2012.
- Video on YouTube
- Neate, Rupert (9 May 2013). "Royal Mail sale: ministers set to go where Thatcher feared to tread". Guardian (London).
- "Dennis Skinner-SNP battle left me too tired to heckle during Queens speech". The Telegraph. 27 May 2015.
- Assinder, Nick (31 October 2005). "Commons Confidential: October 2005". BBC. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Biography at Stuart Thomson
- Contact details at This Is Derbyshire
- on YouTube on the on 's channelYouTube
- This much I know, Skinner runs down some matters of importance to him, hosted by The Guardian
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Giving George Osborne a line of wit in December 2005
- Junction 29A in December 2004
- Heart bypass in March 2003
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Bolsover
|Chairman of the Labour Party