Beast of Bolsover ousted
Andy Bounds reports from Clowne:
In the end the “Beast of Bolsover” went out without even a whimper.
Dennis Skinner, the lion of the left, has lost his seat after 49 years as the Conservatives made deep gains in Labour heartlands. Mr Skinner, dubbed the “Beast of Bolsover” because of his combative style, did not even turn up to face defeat at the count in Clowne leisure centre.
Labour’s representatives walked out just before the result was declared.
He lost by 5,299 votes to Conservative rival Mark Fletcher in the former coal mining area where he once worked at a pit.
Voters in the Leave-voting constituency ousted Mr Skinner, 87, despite his support for quitting the EU. Bolsover voted for Brexit by 70 per cent, one of the highest tallies in the country, in the referendum in June 2016.
Mr Skinner was first elected in 1970 and would have been the longest-serving MP had he been re-elected. His majority in 2017 of 5,288 had dropped from 27,149 in the Labour landslide of 1997.
Labour has held Bolsover since it was carved out of a wider area of Derbyshire in 1950. But the beast was wounded in May when his party lost control of the council.
Mr Fletcher, 34, said that dislike of Jeremy Corbyn was the main factor behind his victory. “Anti-Corbyn sentiment was the biggest thing I picked up on the doorstep. Brexit would be number two. Number three would be the sense on not being listened to, taken for granted.”
He said the Conservatives must now prove they are the party of the working class by investing in the National Health Service and improving public transport outside London.
Allan Bailey, a retired miner and independent councillor, said. “Skinner is a coward. The least he could do is turn up.” He said most voters wanted the Leave result in the referendum to be delivered.
“We have had a democratic vote and we should abide by that democratic vote.”
With Mr Skinner absent, it was left to Mr Fletcher to pay tribute to him. The Conservative said in his victory speech: “He has been a wonderful constituency MP and he has inspired millions of people. I have not found a street I have walked up and down in this constituency where he has not helped somebody. Dennis….the love and affection of the people of Bolsover are very much still with you.”