Sitting uncomfortably

Are you sitting comfortably? This past week has given us a few significant news stories. There’s the Royal Navy whistle-blower who has revealed that weapons designed to blow up half the planet and turn the other half into a radioactive wasteland are a disaster waiting to happen. In another example of rank insanity the Labour party in Scotland continues on its descent into self obsessed madness, although it had snapped the elastic band of nutjobbery quite some time ago. Now it’s twanging the ends on its forehead thinking that Ken Macintosh is the great new idea. Meanwhile the Tories are about to embark on an all out assault on our civil and human rights, introduce a snoopers’ charter and cut off the legs of the unemployed in order to teach them to stand on their own two feet. What passes for business as usual in this Great British northern province then.

So what’s the big story that has got the metrocommentariat appalled and disgusted? Dennis Skinner had to get an SNP person to budge along a bench. It’s an outrage. He’s a pensioner. The SNP upset an old man. The basterts, setting their beach towels on House of Commons benches like German tourists. Uppity Scottish people demanding front row seats and wanting to be noticed. Where do they think they are? They should stand at the back of the chambers in reverent silence while the lizard aliens who are in charge make all the decisions. It’s always worked like that before.

Mind you, if Davie Cameron really is a lizard alien you do have to wonder why he chose that face for his human form. He should have gone for something less shiny and smug and more believably human. Although to be fair, he was comparing himself to Boris Johnson and the dead fish eyes of George Osborne, and by those standards he’s really done rather well.

But back to seating arrangements. Dennis Skinner is 83 and still sits as an MP. The only other people who continue in their jobs at that age are popes and African dictators. No one could ever accuse Labour MPs of infallibility, although many have accused them of kleptocracy – but never, it must be pointed out, Dennis Skinner. Dennis is a good man, but he’s condemned himself to a fate worse than political death. He thought he was breaking the rules, but the establishment just rewrote the rules so that Dennis and his toothless yelled protests became a part of them.

A long time ago, back when there was still a Labour party in Scotland, Dennis used to be a real radical and a proper rebel with a yell. Then he became a Labour MP and over the course of the decades evolved into a tame pet of the British establishment. Dennis has taken upon himself the invaluable task of representing a peculiarly British safely contained and institutionalised awkwardsoddery. He has become the kind of revolutionary that revolves nothing except a children’s roundabout of ritualised protest, it goes nowhere and serves only to amuse those who think they’re the grown ups.

Dennis sits on a front bench in the House of Commons and shouts out protests which allow the establishment to feel like they’re really democrats and that freedom of speech is alive and well in the United Magic Kingdom of austerity. But everyone knows that Dennis has no sparkly wand and that nothing ever changes. That’s how he can be described as a national treasure. He’s become a faded red thread in the fabric of the cloth he once wanted to rip up. When a rebel has his own recognised place in the institution he’s rebelling against he’s no longer a rebel at all, he’s just a species of court jester with worse jokes. He becomes the subject of the cruellest taunt you can make at an auld rebel: “The sowel, he means well.”

It’s because Dennis is a token rebel who changes nothing that he’s now the darling of the British right wing press. When the Daily Mail is leaping to his defence you know he’s no real threat to the established order but instead is a part of it. The British establishment is using Dennis as a stick to beat up on a group of MPs who really do threaten to change things. That’s a bit of a come down – from the Beast of Bolsover to the neutered pet of the Tory press.

Dennis Skinner sits on his front seat bench as a warning to the 56 SNP MPs. Dennis in his special place railing against the institution that has institutionalised him should act as a permanent reminder of the fate the SNP’s 56 need to avoid. They must not become co-opted and their protests ritualised and neutered. They must avoid becoming the tartan trimming in a Great British pageant. Westminster subverts those who seek to subvert it by demanding adherence to its rituals and its ancient traditions which were for the most part invented by Victorians in a fit of archaistic window dressing.

The SNP’s MPs should sit wherever they damn well please, they should clap and cheer and have no regard for the childish and silly social rituals that underpin Westminster, because otherwise they become co-opted by them. They become Dennis Skinners, a part of an institution that isn’t fit for government and a justification for things remaining as they are. They must never forget that they are not there to become a part of the Westminster furniture, they are there to act as a Scottish noise up in a cosy British establishment old boys club. They are they to annoy, to upset, to be a permanent thorn in the pink and flabby flesh of the lizard people.

But far more importantly Scotland’s MPs must never allow the real issues to be swept under the Great British tapestry. Things which, it shouldn’t need to be pointed out, are far more important than fox hunting or seating arrangements. They are there to shout and scream that the fabric is rotten and is woven out of the threat the Tories pose to our human rights, the demonisation of the poor, the axe that’s being taken to the benefits of the vulnerable, the dangers of a nuclear missile programme mismanaged by muppets, the permausterity of government by the bankers for the bankers.

Scotland’s MPs are there to resist and to point out that alternatives are possible. They are there to weave a new story. They are there to make sure that none of the representatives in that parliament are ever sitting comfortably.

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43 comments on “Sitting uncomfortably

  1. heathermclean19 says:

    Well said Paul, and eloquently put as usual!
    Seating arrangements and fox hunting are minor distractions, the 56 are there to speak out loudly and clearly about the real issues and things which really matter! They are there to settle up, not settle down!

    • mumsyhugs says:

      And settle a few old scores! 🙂

      • hektorsmum says:

        Heather you got is very right, I just said to Tris on Muguin that we have to become the midgies of Westminster, annoyingly so. Keep putting down the towels and all manner of things.

  2. Very nice. I’ve never been a fan of Skinner, but did like his occasional barbs of humour. Unfortunately, his type of politician don’t tend to get much column inches for anything other than being eccentric. He and Rees-Mogg cancel each other out.

  3. Edulis says:

    Well, well, well. I have just had an interesting conversation with my boiler service engineer, who tells me that what the real story is at Faslane and Mr McNeely is to be congratulated and not condemned. He was a submariner and his view is that the subs are pieces of scrap with lots of issues. Security at the base, when he was there was also laughable in his eyes.

    He had no hesitation in saying that the whole charade is just the British establishment trying to re-live its ‘glory days’.

  4. Graham Rae says:

    ‘awkwardsoddery.’ ‘permausterity.’ Incredibly brilliant portmanteaus. Very difficult to come up with new words that retain and amplify their meaning when jamslammed together. You always manage it; your use of language is exemplary, and I totally salute you for it. Brilliant. Oh, and the political content’s no too bad either, likesay. 🙂

  5. arthur thomson says:

    I am so glad you are continuing to write your thoughts Paul. I agree with all you have written here and I trust our SNP MP’s are reading your comments.

  6. vronsky says:

    Skinner is a Tory. If he wasn’t he’d be somewhere else doing something else. It really is that simple.

    • hektorsmum says:

      He may or may not be a Tory but one thing he is, is an Anti Scot. He voted against the1979 Devolution bill and I doubt he voted for the one in 1997.
      If he was a socialist as he claimed he should have left Labour decades ago, the only reason he has not done a Manny Shinwell and gone to the Lords is nobody asked him.

  7. Fairliered says:

    I have forwarded this article to my new SNP MP.

  8. Rod MacKay says:

    Great as always. This should be sent to all new MPs, although many of those re-elected would benefit from it too.

  9. omnibus says:

    This Dennis Skinner…?

    Hope I’m as capable as he is when I’m 83

  10. jimnarlene says:

    It has to be remembered, those with the original “rebel yell” were on the wrong side, not only of history but, common respect for their fellow man. Skinner and his ilk, have crossed the floor, if not physically; then ideologically.

  11. gavin says:

    Great stuff, Paul. I was based at Faslane twice and security was a joke then, so why would it change ?
    United Magic Kingdom—-haha, but there ain’t no magic beans.
    Skinner has sadly morphed into a buffoon, in another age he would have a powdered wig and a balloon on a stick. But things could be worse— he could be Baron Foulkes-Orf–that WOULD be a downer !
    Our MPs just need to forget their manners and use their sharp elbows. They hae guid Scotch tongues in their heids, just use them !

  12. Sue de Nymme says:

    Paul, thank you for the reference to Listen With Mother on the radio which began with, “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.” I used to say, “No”, but she carried on anyway which was probably an early indication of my inherent objection to assumed authority.

    I am sure that you are giving a deep subliminal message and showing a parallel with Davie Boy.

    Here it is …

  13. Gerry says:

    The whole point of rebellion is the challenge to authority and replacing it with another. A permanent rebel is an oxymoron. Compromise is the oil lubricating the machinery of life even if it occasionally dons the mantle of hypocrisy. The SNP is a monotheme party wearing bargain basement socialist rags and if Robertson’s poor contribution is a harbinger of things to come I rather think we are in for a dreary time of it. Whining and self pity is such a bore.

  14. Fiona says:

    you saying that Dennis Skinner is to the SNP what the big concrete tombstone was to Ed Miliband? Apt, I think

  15. Jan Cowan says:

    You’re certainly right about poor old Dennis Skinner – bit of a joke now-a-days. But how many of these Old “British” Labour members could compare with the great Scots Socialists? Can’t think of any. Too British, thus, too arrogant.
    I agree with all you have to say, Paul. Great work!

  16. Gavin C Barrie says:

    Mhairi Black seems to be pointing the way. “Seats? I didn’t see any signs. Seating arrangements in the canteen? I’m normal, I’ll sit with the normal folk”.

    Fellow SNP MPs, please, please protect her from the media wolves, they will try to bring her down.

    Great article, and so too your articles in the National.

  17. I watched the first lot of MPs take the oath today (Parliament live tv). The newly elected MPs do so tomorrow, including our 49 newbies. (Salmond took his oath today as he’s not a newbie).

    Honest to God, it was like watching a private golf club or the start of term for the world’s oldest public-school attendees. Gormenghast sprang to mind. Cameron calls it Hogwarts.

    I watched Skinner take his affirmation to the Queen, not the oath. He was the only MP to deliberately mumble his supposed allegiance. Fine by me. I too am a republican.

    But. If Alex Salmond had so acted, this would have been leapt on by the MSM & the BBC like a pack of beagles onto a fox.

    You know what, who gives a toss what the MSM say. Let them howl. It shows the SNP are doing it right.

    MPs should never forget their judges are the folks back home, the folks who walked into the polling stations and will walk in again.

    Every SNP MP’s office door should have the words ‘Polling Station’ emblazoned on it to remind them daily that their ONLY masters are the voters.

    As Robert Burns said,

    Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
    A man’s a man for a’ that.
    For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
    Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that,
    The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
    Is king o’ men for a’ that.

  18. scunneredwiwm says:


    Skinner was one of the Labour rebels who backed Cunningham’s amendment in January 1978 which meant that in the Devolution Referendum of 1979, Scotland’s voters did not just have to achieve a simple majority, but 40% of the electorate.

    Therefore, a 52% YES meant that we lost.

    I also found the Hansard Report. John Smith was the Minister in charge of getting the devolution legislation through and obviously was opposed to the 40% amendment.

    I wonder what John Smith would think about the legislation the Tories are going to bring in to curb the unions and where did they learn it?

    Cunningham, Skinner and co.

    Copied and pasted from Wings.

    Labour Ayes for 40% rule amendment (bold: Scottish constituencies)

    Leo Abse (Pontypool)
    Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
    Betty Boothroyd (West Bromwich)
    Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
    Maureen Colquhoun (Northampton North)
    George Cunningham (Islington South)
    Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
    Joseph Dean (Leeds West)
    Peter Doig (Dundee West)
    Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)
    Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
    Martin Flannery (Sheffield Hillsborough)
    Ted Fletcher (Darlington)
    Ted Garrett (Wallsend)
    Helene Hayman (Welwyn and Hatfield)
    Eric Heffer (Liverpool Walton)
    Robert Hughes (Aberdeen North)
    Adam Hunter (Dunfermline)
    Alexander Lyon (York)
    Joan Maynard (Sheffield Brightside)
    John Mendelson (Penistone)
    Eric Moonman (Basildon)
    Stanley Newens (Harlow)
    Eric Ogden (Liverpool West Derby)
    Arthur Palmer (Bristol North East)
    John Parker (Barking Dagenham)
    Josephine Richardson (Barking)
    Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West)
    George Rodgers (Chorley)
    Renee Short (Wolverhampton North East)
    Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
    Leslie Spriggs (St Helens)
    Ronald Thomas (Bristol North West)
    Audrey Wise (Coventry South West)

  19. macart763 says:

    Seating arrangements is it?

    They can take their reserved places, their traditions, their parliamentary privilege, their quaint procedural speech and cram it right up their ….(mutters darkly).

    Howzabout these spoilt weans get over themselves and settle down to a bit of governing. The 56 are quite right, just grab a damn seat and rattle some entitled cages. Set aboot them and let them know about the job of work they are there to do.

    Nice one Paul.

  20. Dear old Mr Skinner started off as a feisty Jack Russell to the drooling oft flatulent Tory Bulldog, but has ended up as a cantankerous old shih tzu curled up on his chewed blankie at the end of the bench.

    Last of the old left.

    Nice one again Paul.

  21. Wee Jonny says:

    “from the Beast of Bolsover to the neutered pet of the Tory press.”

    Yip that pretty much sums him up for me.

  22. mealer says:

    Eighty three,eh? I suppose that’s close to the average age of a unionist.

  23. seanair says:

    O/T, but did you see the new “Father of the House”? Sir Gerald Kaufman looked like a ghost! Hard work being a Labour MP.

  24. Eric Dodd says:

    So far (most SNP MPs will be sworn in this morning) Skinner is the only MP who failed to declare allegiance to the Queen.
    How ?
    Because what he said was completely unintelligible ! He simply muttered in a whisper and after watching/listening three times, I still have no idea what he actually said.

    Should any SNP MP do the same, remember that when the London media attacks him/her/them without mercy !

    • Eric Dodd says:

      If anyone wants to listen, Skinner gives the oath at 16:23:48, and he can be heard/seen on Westminster’s ”Parliament TV”, 19th May.

  25. Skinner has been present for the swearing in of the new batch. I suppose he’s of a mind to lay claim to ‘his’ seat, in the same way Grandpa Broon and his pals hog the park bench all day, every day.

  26. stuarthaddon says:

    Brilliantly satirical and razor sharp as usual. Your analysis of the Dennis Skinner situation gets straight to the heart of the matter. Truly, when the Daily Mail is applauding one’s actions, then one ought to know that one has been rendered utterly toothless as a crabby auld Labour bastert. The MSM, instead of berating the SNP56 should be wondering what in the blue blazes all the fuss is about and trumpeting about Westminster’s utter lack of proper function.

    While I’m here, let me express my thanks for your input into the debate. The WGD is essential reading for this former LP supporter presently exiled in the US (but still able to vote!).

    Now, where’s that “Donate” button…

  27. daniel gwyn says:

    Bang on analysis of Skinner. Off topic slightly, I’ve always thought that Ian Hislop plays the same kind of “peculiarly British safely contained and institutionalised awkwardsoddery” role as Skinner.

    • Robert Alexander says:

      Yup, Hislop is an establishment flunky I can see the relationship with Skinner who has,as the Dug says, has becme a parody. 83yeas old,it’s a no a seat he needs it’s a bed.

      • tom donald says:

        Hands off Hislop! Private Eye is essential reading if you want to know about the corruption of the ruling class and the establishment in general. There’s a lot more to Hislop than being bored on Have I got News For You.
        Private Eye is a great resource for anyone who hates the Tories!

  28. broadbield says:

    It’s the fate of many a revolutionary – think Animal Farm, Jack Straw, Peter Hain. WoS even had a picture of the bearded Darling marching under a socialist banner many years ago. Once they get the taste of power and money and the feel of ermine then it’s “ne regrette rien”.

  29. carthannas says:

    I think your take on both the fox hunting and Dennis Skinner stories is just brilliant. I can’t believe how you continually give a relevance to stuff and make me think about things in a way that no one else does. Bloody marvellous.

    I don’t know if you watch Eòrpa but they do a similar thing with stories, usually about Europe as you would expect, that they relate to life in the Highlands or Scitland and make you see your life in a broader context than you’re used to.

  30. Saskia says:

    What a wit, a funny and informative piece, thank you.. My big question for Scottish Nationalists is this, why would you abandon the rest of your compatriots in the UK to suffer under the neoliberal yoke. Isn’t solidarity supposed to supercede national divisions? Glib crap like “England voted Tory” is frankly bollocks. Most of us didn’t. Don’t you care about the rest of us? We need each other to defeat this neoliberal cruelty, unity is strength surely?

  31. […] Sitting uncomfortably. Are you sitting comfortably? This past week has given us a few significant news stories. There’s the Royal Navy whistle-blower who has revealed that weapons designed to blow up half the planet and turn the other half into a radioactive wasteland are a disaster waiting to happen. In another example of rank insanity the Labour party in Scotland continues on its descent into self obsessed madness, although it had snapped the elastic band of nutjobbery quite some time ago. […]

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