There were blue patches of sky when we arrived at the allotments this morning. Psychologists have long studied the effect of various colours on the human spirit, all I know is that what my Gran used to describe as ‘enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers’ lifts our spirits enormously. Less so the hens, which staged a mass escape. But Albert’s giant-sized net quickly restored order. The people on ‘Springwatch’ may believe that urban foxes are a joy to behold, we know only too well what they can do to wandering chucks.
Some relief this morning at the news that George Osborne has changed his mind about the planned fuel duty rise. It may be churlish to wonder if ‘Gideon’ knows what he is doing, but it is only three days since both he and Justine ‘forest-seller’ Greening stressed the inevitability of the increase. The problem is of course that we have reached the point where we believe nothing said by politicians of any party. But there is one honourable exception.
At the last election five of us went along to an eve-of-poll rally. No, we were not enticed by the usual preaching to the converted nonsense, but by the guest speaker. It was Dennis Skinner, the man they call the Beast of Bolsover. Several of us do not share his political beliefs but to a man we admire his total honesty, his refusal to speak other than the truth. We were reminded of this by a rare interview with him by Decca Aitkenhead of the Independent. Rare because he regards interviews as “elitist crap”, self promotion.
The Beast is 80 now, and has been a member of parliament for longer than George Gideon Osborne has been alive. Having survived both cancer and heart bypass surgery, he remains to this day one of the most assiduous members of the House where his voting record is almost unrivalled. When the expenses scandal broke a glance at the records showed that not only had he not transgressed, he had made no claims whatsover. He refuses to discuss this, he has an almost obsessive aversion to anyone appearing to be ‘holier than thou’.
During Callaghan’s premiership he was invited to join the cabinet. He declined, telling ‘Sunny Jim” that he would be unable to adhere to collective responsibility given his insistence on always saying what he thought. From that day to this he is a daily fixture in the Commons, a scourge to ministers of all political persuasions.
When the Jeremy Hunt scandal broke he commented that; “When posh boys are in trouble, they sack the servants”. David Cameron rounded on him. Skinner was, the prime minister said, an aged dinosaur so old and irrelevant that he should collect his pension and crawl away. Many older people were deeply offended by this, but not the victim. In his interview Skinner says that Cameron should “keep on doing it..now and then you see the arrogance of the man, of the Bullingdon Club”.
The Beast was one of nine children to a miner and a washer woman. He grew up in a Derbyshire mining community. he ws brilliant at maths, able to recite times tables backwards at the age of six. He won a scholarship to a grammar school and proved to have the sort of memory that made exams easy, Latin especially so. But to his mother’s dismay, at 16 he left school and followed his father down the pit.
It was, he recalls, hard work, slavery. He still remembers running backwards through a tunnel, dragging a trolley, trying to carry an injured colleague to safety. He remembers the terror of plunging 800 metres down a mine shaft, the abrupt sudden halt, the shared fear. Most of all he remembers the shared comradeship, the code of behaviour that had every member of the shift prepared to put others first when danger struck.
Skinner became a local councillor, in 1970 he was elected to parliament. Constituents talk of him as their champion, a man prepared to take on anyone in the pursuit of justice. The only public recognition that ever came his way was an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party. It went into the bin. He is incorruptable, one of the few writers to even meet him by appointment tells of his refusal to allow his questionner to buy the coffee.
It goes without saying that he abhors the present posh boys and their disdain for working people. But that is not a political point for he equally condemned Blair’s dalliance with the powerful and rich. In fact he abhors anyone whose personal needs take priority over those who are struggling to cope. That takes in a lot of people and it would take many a coach to take his parliamentary enemies on a trip to Bolsover, in the unlikley event they would deign to go there.
But to us the man is a treasure, a rare creature in public life. You have no need to share his beliefs to admire his total honesty, what you see is what you get. Other names such as Foot, Benn, Thatcher, Grimond, Churchill come to mind. Like them or loathe them, you had to admire their total honesty, their refusal to bend either knee or truth.
This blog is not alone in constantly banging on about untrustworthy politicians. Today that is the view of most people. Oh for more Dennis Skinners. It is perhaps unsurprising that our dear leader hates him with an all-consuming passion. He sees him as common, uneducated, very old and an unpleasant hindrance.
What Skinner thinks of him is not hard to imagine!
SOME QUOTES FOR TODAY; “Everything takes longer than it should except sex”….Murphy’s Law “When you give a child a hammer everything becomes a nail” …..Leo Kaplan “More always means worse”….Kingsley Amis ”There are no exceptions to the rule that everyone likes to be the exception to the rule”…..William F Buckley “At bank, supermarket or post office, there is one universal law which we ignore at our peril; the shortest line moves the slowest”….Bill Vaughan “A motorist is a person who, after seeing a serious wreck, drives carefully for several blocks”……Jane Pickens ”They have eating dogs for the anorexic now”….Duke of Edinburgh to a blind woman with a guide dog “I couldn’t believe it when I read that 82% of men would rather sleep with a goat than me”……Sarah Ferguson “The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire”……Voltaire