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Old school Dennis is a breath of fresh air in a stale campaign.

Byline: KEVIN MAGUIRE On the election trail with Dennis Skinner

"GOOD morning, Amber Place. This is Dennis Skinner. Yes, Dennis Skinner on his old stamping ground" "Hello in The Bungalows in Stonebroom. This is your Labour candidate" "Good afternoon, Hardie Avenue" The Beast of Bolsover is a breath of fresh air when national campaigns are sterile, with David Cameron and Ed Miliband wrapped in cotton wool.

Skinner is old school, a revivalist preacher holding up to a dozen street corner meetings a day in an election that is a world away from the vetted supporters in plastic meetings addressed by party leaders.

Watching the former miner in Derbyshire is like viewing news clips from an era when politicians invited questions from voters instead of inviting the audience.

The street names change but the Skinner formula stays the same as he aims to visit every village, estate and town over six weeks in a semi-rural swathe of middle England stretching 25 miles at its longest and another 25 miles at the broadest.

It works like this. Skinner's agent, Gary Ransford, drives to an agreed spot in his Toyota Yaris with mounted loudspeakers.

The candidate arrives in his eco-friendly Prius and, in trademark red tie and sports jacket, calls people to a mini rally with a rousing socialist sermon. And they come.

"Labour will scrap the evil Bedroom Tax."

"We have got to save the NHS again."

"Every worker has lost PS1,600 since this ungodly coalition came to power."

"We've come up with a decent tax on mansions and none of you will pay a penny."

Skinner, 83 and fighting a 12th general election after serving as Bolsover's MP for 45 years, campaigns with the energy of a spotty first-timer in a marginal seat.

"I never take anything for granted," he tells me. "Campaigning isn't a great mystery. It's about conversations with people, talking with them in a language we all understand, and listening."

Amber Place is in the Holmgate area of Clay Cross, Skinner's home town.

It's where he was born into poverty, third of nine kids, and is just outside his constituency. He's crossed the boundary to support North East Derbyshire's Natascha Engel, defending a 2,445 majority.

"He's wonderful, isn't he?" she says.

Back over the border in Bolsover, he does a couple of meetings in Stonebroom.

Ex-miner Ron Hall, 66, listens to Skinner from his garden gate. "He's not bad, Dennis, is he?" remarks the pensioner.

Understatement is the common language of the Derbyshire working class.

Tesco worker Sheila Dodd, 64, pinpoints Skinner's popularity: "He's a card, a real rebel. He's one of us. We all love him."

And then Skinner's off again.

"Good afternoon, St Michael's Drive"


ROUSING Dennis Skinner rallies voters in street

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 4, 2015
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