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21 June 2017updated 01 Aug 2021 8:38am

Queen’s Speech: Dennis Skinner’s top heckles

The Labour MP for Bolsover’s quips on the State Opening of Parliament are part of the tradition.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Dennis Skinner, the socialist firebrand MP known as the “Beast of Bolsover”, makes a republican quip every time the Queen opens Parliament. From his traditional spot on the rebels’ bench, he roars his irreverent line following Black Rod knocking and entering the Commons to summon MPs to hear the Queen in the House of Lords. He would perhaps be devastated to realise that he is now just as much a part of the tradition as the pomp, ceremony and ermine.

Here are his most notable heckles:


“Get your skates on; first race is half past two,” Skinner growled, referring to the ceremony clashing with the Queen’s annual day out at Ascot.


“Hands off the BBC!” he cried, in response to Tory ministers trying to make changes to the public broadcaster.


There was no heckle this year because Skinner was too tired. He said he had been focusing on fighting off the influx of new SNP MPs who were trying to sit in his space. He had been getting up at the crack of dawn to stave them off by reserving his traditional seat in the Commons.


“Coalition’s last stand,” he predicted as the general election loomed the following year.


“Royal Mail for sale. Queen’s head privatised,” was Skinner’s intervention, following the Royal Mail being privatised.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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

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