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.