Dennis Skinner, one of the ghostly superannuated "lefts" in the Parliamentary Labour Party, has come out in support of David Miliband for Labour leader.
He calls on others to back "the man the Tories fear most".
Skinner, a one-time miner, has been an MP for 40 years. Unlike many of the career "leftists" in the old Parliamentary Labour Party, Skinner had real left-wing credentials.
He knew which side of the class divide and the class war he was on. He backed strikes, and backing them was more than a matter of policy and political calculation: unmistakably, it was something he felt in his guts.
Politically, though, Skinner was of the old Labour left, and not untypical of it. Politically, Skinner was not really left.
He was an overt reactionary on some issues - a shameless little Englander, for instance, denouncing all moves towards European unity. Just like most of the would-be left, reformist and revolutionary alike, then - and much of it still.
Skinner's idea of socialism was to go back to the sort of state-controlled economy Britain had in World War Two. It was nationalism.
His socialism, like the Communist Party's and the official Labour Left's, was a species of utopianism. Cutting across the grain of the real historical tendencies, it was a regressive, reactionary utopia.
Like virtually the whole labour movement, Skinner moved in the Thatcher years and after towards focusing everything on "kicking out the Tories". Never mind the politics - getting rid of the Tory government became a self-sufficient policy.
By 1997 the Labour Party that finally got rid of the Tories was in its politics hard to distinguish from the Tories. In policy it had become a neo-Thatcherite party. Direct industrial action by workers was at a historical low point.
Skinner became a Blairite! A "left" pet of the Blairites and of Blair himself, who reportedly used to "consult" Skinner, that is, test the political temperature by the responses of this extinct little one-time would-be socialist.
It was a degrading and shameful role for Skinner to play. Seemingly, he relished it.
Now Skinner backs the candidate for Labour leader who is most clearly identified as Blair's heir - who is to Blair what Blair was to Thatcher, whose essentials he accepted.
Skinner's advice should be treated with the contempt and derision he deserves. Yap on, little poodle!
Solidarity 181, 23 September 2010