Dennis Skinner's best Queen's Speech jokes

"Royal Mail for sale. Queen's head privatised," the Labour MP declared today. We collect his most memorable bon mots from previous years.

Dennis Skinner's republican quips during the State Opening of Parliament have become part of our unwritten constitution. Today, as Black Rod summoned MPs to hear the monarch in the House of Lords (by tradition, the Queen cannot enter the Commons), he declared: "Royal Mail for sale. Queen's head privatised."

So, in tribute to the Beast of Bolsover's verbal agility, here's a selection of some his most memorable bon mots from previous years. 


Skinner quipped: "It tolls for thee, Maggie", a reference to Margaret Thatcher's imminent resignation as prime minister.


As pressure grew on the Queen to pay tax on her personal income, Skinner ordered Black Rod: "Tell her to pay her taxes."


Skinner cried: "New Labour, New Black Rod", an adaptation of the campaign slogan "New Labour, New Britain".


Skinner shouted, "Tell her to read the Guardian" after the newspaper launched a new campaign calling for Britain to become a republic.


Following a series of break-ins at Buckingham Palace, Skinner asked: "Did she lock the door behind her?"


In reference to the new film The Queen, Skinner asked Black Rod: "Have you got Helen Mirren on standby?"


After two protected hen harriers were shot dead on the royal family's Sandringham estate, Skinner remarked: "Who shot the harriers?" Prince Harry was questioned by the police but no charges were brought.


Skinner quipped: "Any Tory moles at the palace?", a reference to the recent arrest of the Tory MP Damian Green in connection with Home Office leaks.


As Black Rod arrived in the Commons, Skinner joked: "Royal expenses are on the way."


"Jubilee year, double dip recession, what a start," shouted Skinner, prompting cries of "shame!" from Tory MPs. 

Labour MP Dennis Skinner in full flow.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.