Today’s live-on-air outburst is characteristic of a Labour MP whose acid-tongue has landed in him in hot water many times during his 35 years in the Commons.
As reporters, we’ve all been on the sharp end of Dennis Skinner’s comments during interviews.
‘Make sure you’ve done your homework’ one editor told me before picking up the phone to speak with this Parliamentary legend.
That’s simply because he won’t suffer fools...or questions that he regards as stupid or pointless.
Speaking over the phone a few months ago about contentious zero-hour contracts, and after clearly annoying him, he stopped me mid question and sternly asked ‘Have you not read my book?!’.
I was told I had to do my homework, I didn’t realise I had to memorise his memoirs. Still, it made for an interesting conversation thereafter.
I even found myself apologising for not having read it.
That’s the power of the man known as the ‘Beast of Bolsover’.
The ex-miner and staunch union supporter is known for having the best attendance record in Parliament, and with the lowest expenses, but it’s his one-liners that have grabbed the headlines over the years.
Here are some of the beauties that have landed him in trouble.
- Speaking during a debate in the Commons, he dropped the infamous bombshell that ‘half the Tories are crooks’. Having being ordered to withdraw the comment, he responded by saying ‘okay, half the Tories aren’t crooks’.
- Responding to the then chancellor Gordon Brown’s prediction for the economy’s growth of 1.75 per cent in 2005, Mr Skinner made a comment about the 1980s under Conservative rule by saying: “The only thing that was growing then was the lines of coke in front of Boy George and the rest of the Tories.” His comment got him banned from the Commons for a day after he refused to retract it.
- In 1992 he was thrown out of the Commons for calling then agriculture minister John Gummer a ‘little squirt of a minister’ and a ‘wart’.
- On calling an MP a ‘pompous sod’ he, again, was told to withdraw the comment. He said: “I withdraw the word pompous.” The speaker told him that it was not that word he should withdraw, to which Mr Skinner replied: “I can’t withdraw both.”
Unsurprisingly, he was thrown out of the Parliamentary session.
-On David Cameron, whom he has taken to calling ‘Dodgy Dave’, he once said: “Every now and then you see the arrogance of Cameron, and that comes through every so often. It is the Bullingdon Club. When they were sat down, him and Gideon (George Osborne), and he says: ‘You know what we really want, Gideon? Every weekend, after we’ve roughed up one of those hotels, we need an army of volunteers to come in and clean it all up.’ And Gideon says: ‘Yeah, we could call it the Big Society’.”
- Every year at the state opening of Parliament Black Rod is sent on behalf of the Queen to request that MPs come through to the House of Lords. Dennis Skinner’s remarks have become part of this tradition.
Some include ‘Tell her to pay her taxes!’, ‘Have you got Helen Mirren on standby?’ and ‘Royal Expenses are on the way.’ (after the MPs’ expenses scandal).