Dennis Skinner doesn't deserve the contempt of cocky whippersnappers who never did a proper day's work. He deserves the respect due to both his seniority and his background as one of nine children of a miner sacked after the General Strike of 1926, and a miner himself.
This is, candidly, bollocks. Skinner received precisely the degree of respect he deserves from David Cameron. Skinner is, clearly, considered a Labour party icon, if for nothing else then for sheer longevity (that promise to retire at 65 not having stuck, obviously). There's no reason for that sentiment to cross the floor. After all, as Jerry Hayes points out, that's the way Skinner plays the game.
If you want the real measure of the man let me recall a nasty little cameo role he played in one of the most dramatic and moving events I have ever witnessed in the Chamber. It was a few months after the Brighton bombing where friends and colleagues had died or had been horribly injured. John Wakeham lost his wife and at one time it was thought that he might never walk again. Unannounced, unplanned and in the middle of the debate, the doors swung open and there was Wakeham on crutches slowly and very painfully hobbling his way to the front bench. A silence befell the House. At times like these there is a bond that goes way beyond the pettiness of party politics. You could hear a pin drop and to a man and woman we rose in silence and respect and then applauded this man for his courage and terrible loss, mourning his wife and feeling for his motherless young children. The House was united in its grief except for one solitary, seated, glowering figure who wouldn’t stand; Skinner. After all, Wakeham was a Tory.
David Cameron was far too charitable.