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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

An interview with a socialist renegade

23 October 2016
English Undergraduate and Journalist Katherine Lovage interviews veteran left wing MP Dennis Skinner: the infamous 'Beast of Bolsover'.

Dennis Skinner has been the Labour MP for Bolsover since 1970. Referred to as ‘The Beast of Bolsover,’ Skinner is best known for his sharp-tongued honesty in the House of Commons and for coining the infamous phrase ‘Dodgy Dave’. The MP shares with us some of his views on the current situation of the Labour Party and what they can do for students if Jeremy Corbyn were to be elected Prime Minister:


What can the Labour party do for students?

‘Labour, under the current leadership are in favour of abolishing student loans. This has not happened for a long time. In 1997 it was Tony Blair’s idea [to bring in student loans] and some voted against it. This would all change under Corbyn; he is a good prospect for students that don’t want to be saddled with debt.’


What about the students that already have debts because of Student Loans?

‘It would be hard to write retrospective law once law has been passed in parliament. Passed law would stop from the royal assent.’


Does the Labour party still feel divided?

‘Not long since the resignations in the shadow cabinet, a lot, but not all of those that left in a huff have come back. What people have to understand is that Labour has not always been left wing – in 1970, there were fifteen to twenty left wingers in total. The experience has always been more right wing that the party itself. Now there is pressure from right-wing groups within labour, for example, Progress. Progress is financed by Sainsbury’s – [to the sum of] one million pounds. This money used to go directly to Labour under Blair, as Blair was a prominent member of Progress at the time.’


So have things changed now, after Corbyn’s re-election?

‘A lot. Corbyn was selected by 59% of labour votes and reselected with a 62% total. The people doubting realised Corbyn was re-elected with a bigger majority. Also what is important, is that the number of members of the Labour party is bigger now than all other parties in Britain altogether, even the SNP. That is an achievement. It is more than the Tories, Ukip, ScotNats and all of them put together. The Tories don’t want to speak about that.’


And the last achievement that Skinner wants to point out:

‘Ever since I have been a member, labour have had a problem balancing the books. Generally speaking, labour would run in deficit. With membership numbers tripling since Corbyn, the [labour party’s] debt of £25 million is now in surplus of £5 million. That is bigger than under Blair, under Brown, under Miliband. Membership soaring to the astrological heights that it has, has eliminated the debt of the Labour party.’