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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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Stealing bread

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Thursday, 10 September 2009 at 02:37 pm
My esteemed colleague and fellow Independent Minds blogger Amol Rajan tells what happened when he phoned Dennis Skinner, Labour MP for Bolsover, to ask if he wanted to take part in The Independent's You Ask the Questions feature:

He launched into a tirade for several minutes about how the very notion of such a page was disgusting because it was like "stealing bread from some other journalist who could be occupying that space".

He went on (rudely):

"I never write for newspapers because there could be a journalist writing in that same space.  That journalist needs to feed his family. I'm not stealing from his family".

I think - and I mean this respectfully - that Mr Skinner may be hard of hearing, so when I tried to explain to him that the page would be printed anyway, just with some other politician, he either ignored me or raised the volume of his rant.

Labour rightwingers often say that they respect Skinner because, although he is an irredeemable leftie, he is principled. There are some principles, though, that you can take too far.