This documentary chronicles the life of veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner, the “Beast of Bolsover”. Skinner has been an MP for 47 years. So in some ways this is an account of British politics for the past five decades.
We hear about his early introduction to class politics, when his dad was sacked as a miner after the 1926 General Strike.
Poverty affected his childhood. Skinner explains, “We knew Santa wasn’t visiting our house.”
He talks about the mushroom picking and apple scrumping of his childhood.Skinner is a warm, thoughtful anchor for the film.
The Nature of the Beast is at its strongest when it follows his impressive political life, such as his involvement in the 1973 Clay Cross rent strike.
Archive footage of Skinner speaking in parliament and on protests is interspersed with contemporary interviews with him and his brothers.
He talks proudly about his role in stopping racist Tory MP Enoch Powell banning stem cell research. But it would have been more interesting to hear about the wider opposition to Powell.
The Nature of the Beast is a comprehensive portrait of Skinner. But the film is too long and at times it fails to engage, as Skinner just delivers lengthy monologues.
Reflecting on his political life, Skinner says, “Nature, like politics is not static. There will always be more fields to conquer as well as there will always be more blossom on another day.”