LETTER:Keeping an eye on Skinner's footwork

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From Mr Francis Burke

Sir: On reading of Dennis Skinner's expulsion from the Commons this week for using "unparliamentary language" ("Ballistic anger puts Skinner in the ejector seat", 10 May), it reminded me that his rousing performances are part of a tradition related to the position he occupies in the House.

He sits where (in the words of John Biffen) "generations of the disrespectful have sat, impervious to patronage and essential to the vitality of Parliament".

In particular, I was reminded of Bessie Braddock, the long-standing MP for Liverpool Exchange, who was the first woman MP to be suspended from a sitting of the Commons. Her obituarist in the Times in 1970 duly noted that:

She invariably occupied the same seat at the end of the front row below the gangway. There she would amply dispose herself, her arms along the back of the bench, contemplating with undisguised distaste the ranks opposite.

Her suspension from the House was the result of her crossing the lines to sit on the Conservative side as an act of protest. Indeed, she brought a case of libel against one newspaper which described her as "dancing a jig". I shall be watching Mr Skinner's footwork closely in future to see if there are any further manifestations of the "Bessie Effect".

Yours sincerely,



11 May