Posted by: billpurdue | April 12, 2015

Dennis Skinner – the survivor

Whether or not you agree with the views of Dennis Skinner MP, you have to admire him for his tenacity. Still an MP in his eighties, he has seen many MPs, not to mention Prime Ministers come and go during his time in Parliament. He entered the House of Commons in 1970 after being a local councilor in Derbyshire. Since then he has stuck to his principles through thick and thin.

 D Skinner

Last year his reminiscences, “Sailing Close to the Wind” were published. It’s a book that focuses much more on his political and campaigning activities than his personal life, though the reader gets an insight into his upbringing in Clay Cross (the only council in the country that rebelled against the rent rises imposed by the government of the time). He achieved a scholarship to go to Tupton Hall school, near Chesterfield, but when he got the chance to go on to university, he decided against it and went down the pit like his father before him.

There are some fascinating accounts of events in Parliament and perhaps one of the best of these is his account of how he thwarted Enoch Powell’s private members bill to ban stem cell research. Skinner hit on the idea of moving the writ for the by-election for Brecon and Radnor on the day that Powell’s Bill was to be debated, the seat having become vacant two weeks previously owing to the death of the sitting MP. Skinner studied the relevant section of Erskine May, the ‘bible’ of parliamentary procedure (the 24th revised edition will set you back about £300) to make sure that he would not be ruled out of order. With the help of a few other MPs on both sides of the House, by prolonging the discussion about the relevant constituency, taking care not to deviate from the point, he succeeded.

It’s a good read and although I was glad to get past Chapter 7 (“Socialist till I die”), I really enjoyed it. So now I have to return it to the library as soon as possible as it’s requested. There’s no doubt quite a big waiting list.

“Sailing Close to the Wind” will be out in paperback in the middle of May 2015. If you’d like a selection of Dennis Skinner quotes, got to

Meanwhile for the floating voter….


Biteback Publishing has issued a series of small books in the “Why Vote 2015 Collection”. At about £10 each (or £37.50 plus p&p for all five from the publisher), there is a title for each of the main national parties ie. Labour, Conservative, UKIP, Liberal Democrat and Green.

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