Scab label pouring salt into the wound
I WAS puzzled by the story about a couple having their first row in 83 years of marriage.
How did 105-year-old Maurice Kaye and his 104-year-old wife Helen manage more than eight decades without arguing when most of us have so many barneys we’ve got Relate on speed-dial after eight weeks?
But when I read what they’d finally argued about, it came as no surprise: Brexit. That festering wound which seeps into every aspect of public debate and has divided more families and communities than anything since the miners’ strike. For those too young to remember the mid-80s, that bloody dispute brought the country to the brink of civil war, with pitched battles on picket lines and the streets of pit towns. Today’s Brexit scraps mostly occur in the media but have the same air of violence. Take George Osborne telling friends he won’t rest until Theresa May, who sacked him over his failed role in the EU referendum, “is chopped up in bags in my freezer”. Now there’s a slasher film which would break box office records. But, just as no one could have forecast our futures resting in the hands of an abject mediocrity like David Davis, who’d have guessed Gideon Osborne would turn into Hannibal Lecter? And who’d have imagined that when Dennis Skinner voted in favour of the EU Withdrawal Bill, certain enraged left-wingers on Twitter would call for his de-selection and the changing of his moniker from The Beast of Bolsover to The Scab of Bolsover? As sacrileges go, that’s up there with calling Mother Teresa “The Devil of Calcutta”. It’s a misguided slur on one of the most principled socialist MPs Britain’s ever seen and any hardline Corbyn supporter who screams treachery at Skinner for defying the party whip needs to go for an irony check-up.
Even though, as a staunch Remainer, I disagree completely with Skinner’s stance on Brexit, it is a stance he has maintained, like Tony Benn, all of his political life.
This was how he hit back at claims of being a “Red Tory” traitor: “I’ve stayed the same for over 40 years. Being against the EU has been in every one of the General Election addresses I’ve sent out to my constituents. I think I’m the only MP who’s voted against every treaty.”
Putting the word scab within 100 miles of Skinner is like using grafter in a sentence about Prince Andrew. Not least because that word came into its most popular usage during the miners’ strike when Skinner donated his MP wages to the strike fund for a year, spoke at more than 300 rallies and was thrown out of the Commons for calling judges who jailed miners “bent”.
Skinner is the most incorruptible man I’ve ever met. When he entered Westminster, he made three pledges to himself: Never pair with a Tory because it’s “organised truancy”, don’t accept foreign junkets and don’t frequent Westminster bars because factory workers can’t work and drink at the same time.
More than 47 years later, he’s yet to break one of them.
That anyone on the left should see the magnificent Beast as a Scab proves beyond doubt that Brexit is indeed turning this country into a madhouse.
Skinner is the most principled man I’ve ever met
INCORRUPTIBLE Dennis Skinner