The Beast of Bolsover roars once more
An amazing salvo from Dennis Skinner at Prime Minister's Questions today. It was vintage Skinner, of a kind we've not seen for 10 years or more.
Many believe the Beast of Bolsover has mellowed in recent years, following his heart troubles and problems in his personal life.
But not today. Dressed in red shirt and red tie, he thundered:
"In recession-hit Britain, the billionaires have gone up by 20 - an increase of 37% - in this first year of Tory rule. Whilst in the real world, inflation's going through the roof, thousands of blind people are having to march through the streets of London to hang on to their disability living allowance. What a savage indictment of this lousy, rotten ..."
Then his words were lost in the noise.
Whatever your politics, it was wonderful theatre.
Skinner plans to retire at the next election, and make way for a neighbouring Labour MP as the boundaries in Derbyshire are redrawn and the number of constituencies reduced.
Indeed, Skinner originally planned to retire at the last election, but then heard rumours that the Labour high command was planning to parachute the former Conservative Quentin Davies into his seat. So he decided to stay put.
After the next election Skinner would have been a possible contender to become Father of the House, having served as an MP since 1970. Others to have lasted that long include Michael Meacher, Ken Clarke, Gerald Kaufman, and the current Father, Sir Peter Tapsell (an MP from 1959 to 1964 and then from 1966 until today).
But Skinner is not interested in what he sees as a minor form of patronage.
The other question is whether Dennis Skinner will write his memoirs. He's been talking to publishers, and a possible ghost-writer, Les Scott, but is worried as to whether they'd sell or not.