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Skinner liaison 'is MP's own affair'

THE HERO of Derbyshire's working classes was yesterday set as squarely in the tradition of D H Lawrence's lovers as in Karl Marx's nest of brothers, writes Jonathan Foster.

The Labour MP Dennis Skinner, it was gossiped colloquially, had been giving t'researcher one. She turned out to be a bit of London posh, one Lois Blasenheim, 47, according to the News of the World. 'What sort of bloody name is that?' one of the lads wondered. 'Dennis will find that a right mouthful.'

Mr Skinner, 62, is unlikely to incur electoral disadvantage from reports of his romance. Many of his Bolsover constituents have known for years that his marriage was over. The estrangement dates from the time when local miners had four collieries in which to work. Now there are none, and the Derbyshire area of the NUM is appointing counsellors to cope with the repercussions of pit closures.

Marital breakdown has become such a commonplace consequence of unemployment that, in villages like Shirebrook and Pleasley, the liaison may even prove a good career move. 'It was only a matter of time before the Tory press started having a go at Labour MPs,' a former miner said. 'But Dennis hasn't been preaching back to basics. He's not betrayed anything.'

'Nobody's going to pontificate,' a union official said. 'It's none of our business.'

By closing time yesterday in Shirebrook, constituents were mostly indifferent. A group of young men said Mr Skinner had done nothing wrong. 'But if he'd been wearing a Chelsea strip, no bugger would vote for him.'