Daniel Draper does what many thought was impossible with his new film, Nature of the Beast, in capturing a stunning portrait of Labour MP Dennis Skinner, who has held his position within Parliament since being elected for Bolsover in 1970. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the life of a hard-left socialist politician and all that they fight for, there’s no better way to delve into that world than to watch Draper’s movie.
Nature of the Beast instantly surprises in that it’s not a simple look at the recent days of Skinner, but a view into his entire family. Growing up as one of nine children, Skinner remembers that he figured out what it was to be poor at a young age, discovering secrets about the wider world when he was just six-years-old that would usually be reserved for teenage life.
We also discover Skinner’s passion for nature here and even singing, with the MP treating viewers to a variety of different numbers throughout the film.
What Nature of the Beast really comes down to however, is all that Skinner has achieved during his time within the world of Westminster politics. Forever fighting for his constituents, one of his most notable actions was to go to war with Margaret Thatcher during her time as Prime Minister, protesting about the closing of the coal mines and doing whatever he could to protect the rights of those workers. Still to this day, Skinner thinks that the miners could have won that battle if they had had a little more support. It’s an emotional time to look back on.
His finest hour however comes when he managed to work the rules of Westminster to his favour like never before, filibustering Enoch Powell in parliament when Powell was extremely close to forcing a bill through that would ban stem-cell research. In his triumph, Skinner can now look back whenever he hears about all of the good that stem-cell research has done in the modern world, knowing that his time in parliament has been for something extremely special.
What the film lacks – though we aren’t surprised due to the majority of it being filmed in 2014 – is a focus on political issues of today. There are a couple of fleeting moments in regards to current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in which we see Skinner defend him against a certain news organisation’s attempted spin, but aside from that, not very much else. Brexit is also put aside, though Skinner’s thoughts on that are widely available to the general public.
As a man who appeals to both the young and old generations of his constituency and somebody that you cannot deny has always fought for a better Britain not only for himself, but for the ‘normal’ people of the United Kingdom, Nature of the Beast is a beautiful watch and one that will only solidify the love Skinner’s fans have for him.
Never allowing himself to be consumed by the Westminster lifestyle that has taken over so many others, Skinner is not a “champagne socialist”, but instead somebody that has remained loyal to his people for decades upon decades. There’s a reason he’s still in parliament as an MP after all of these years: he’s one of the few, trustworthy politicians that we have.
Dennis Skinner: Nature of the Beast is available now in UK cinemas.