"I agree that he is not the national treasure that he seems to have become, and I worry that his lack of engagement in his constituency is akin to Tony Benn's similar disregard of Chesterfield - notably lost to the Liberal Democrats once he left. (Will Bolsover suffer the same fate?)
"However, when you consider the Derbyshire Labour MPs, I can't think of a single one who could be considered old Labour or mafia. That's not to say they're all Blairites, by the way.
"If you mean the councillors in North Derbyshire, you might have a point; but to be fair to Dennis he only criticises Labour within the party, not in public - which is more than can be said about MPs such as Charles Clarke!"
Well, the answer to the question why I consider Skinner to be part of a "deeply unpleasant Derbyshire Old Labour mafia" relates to an old story dating back to a General Election campaign in the 1970s which deserves to be retold in full.
A group of Labour activists were out canvassing for Skinner on a bleak estate outside Clay Cross when the following doorstep exchange took place.
Canvasser: "Own this 'ouse, do yer?"
Voter: "No, it's rented."
Canvasser: "Council 'ouse, is it?"
Voter: "Yes, that's right."
Canvasser: "Wanna keep yer council 'ouse?"
Voter: "Well, yes, 'course I do."
Canvasser: "Well then fookin' vote Labour."
I doubt if the said canvasser was actually Skinner himself, or even his equally obstreperous brother David, a former road-ganger who was later awarded a job by Labour-run Derbyshire County Council as cultural attache to Japan. But it was on such Old Labour thuggery that his political career was built.
There are probably plenty of other Labour MPs of whom the same could be said. But unlike Skinner, none of them have managed to fool the public into thinking they are some nice, cuddly old socialist.