PERSONALLY, I’m with the Prime Minister on this one, aren’t you?
Don’t you think it’s disgusting that a fit and healthy 80-year-old is allowed to sit in Parliament?
Don’t you think Dennis Skinner – 42 years political experience, 11,000 majority – has a cheek to stand up in the Commons and question an Old (but relatively young) Etonian?
Don’t you think coalition Cameron was bang-on – unlike he has been with, say, the economy – to label the Bolsover MP a dinosaur, suggest he take his pension and refuse to answer his question?
I mean, why should a Bullingdon Boy respond to an ex-miner from Derbyshire anyway?
You don’t agree? You think if someone is capable and ugly enough to do a job then they’re young enough too?
Hmm. Well, yeah, actually, me too.
Because that’s entirely reasonable, isn’t it? None of us would wish to be judged on our age alone, would we?
Shame about the Prime Minister, then, who last week refused to answer Skinner’s legitimate parliamentary question about Rupert Murdoch, instead noting the octogenarian “has the right to take his pension and I advise him to do so”. That came a couple of months after Cameron called him a dinosaur.
What a prize prefect.
Here’s the thing: back when I was still trying to understand politics – as opposed to now when I’ve long accepted I never will – I asked my father why they called Skinner the Beast of Bolsover.
He thought about this a moment before inquiring if I remembered the Spanish footballer Andoni Goikoetxea.
I did. He was known as the Butcher of Bilbao because he would happily break a striker’s leg to win a 50-50 ball.
“Skinner’s a bit like that,” the old man mused. “Only more brutal on the opposition.”
It’s an obvious joke but it still makes me laugh. Because, well, it’s true.
And I repeat it here to illustrate I’m well aware the Beast doesn’t need some kid on The Star fighting his corner.
So, I won’t.
He might be 80 but, like plenty of octogenarians I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, he’s sharp of mind, sound of health and capable of the kind of withering put-down that only comes with decades of honing. His battle scars include 10 suspensions from Parliament.
But if this Clay Cross born lad puts the punch into a Punch and Judy parliament, wasn’t there something repugnant about a PM lampooning him, not for his politics or personality, but because of the period passed since his birth?
This wasn’t simple mockery of a single MP who can look after himself. The refusal to answer was pure age discrimination.
And here’s the thing with that: when the country’s leader suggests someone isn’t fit to do a job because of their age he’s legitimising attacks on older people’s rights everywhere.
He’s supporting the BBC sacking Arlene Phillips because Alesha looks better in a mini; the bosses who force experienced staff to retire; the nurses who call elderly patients bed-blockers. He’s setting the nation’s tone – and he’s setting it so people of a certain vintage are automatically regarded as useless.
Which is self-evident nonsense.
Because aren’t there plenty of pensioners who are great company, great value and great at giving younger people – like Cameron – advice that might just be worth listening to?
They say the grey vote is important come election time. One wonders if the Prime Minister will be so dismissive of the older generation then.