Polly toynbee

Diary – 14 June 2018

Awake to the Today programme and ordure being dumped on me by Polly Toynbee while the Mail’s legendary Dame Ann Leslie sings my praises. I recall how Toynbee penned a venomous piece about my predecessor, Sir David English, only days after he died at 67 (though, through a slip in the actualité, his Who’s Who entry had him at 66). I never cease to be amused by the way the left demonise anyone they disagree with, but poor Polly’s obsession with the Mail is almost psychotic. Roger Alton, the ex-editor of the Observer, wades in, writing to the Guardian that I am ‘a very great man and a newspaperman of genius

Must Toby Young’s role in creating schools now be held against him?

The furore over Toby Young’s appointment to the board of the Office for Students (OfS) shows no sign of dying down. The Mail on Sunday splashes on a series of ‘sexist and obscene tweets’ sent by Young – reporting the Prime Minister’s apparent ‘distaste’. Now it seems that some can’t even accept Young’s work in education which contributed to his appointment. Appearing on the Andrew Marr show this morning, the Guardian‘s Polly Toynbee came up with a new line of attack. Toynbee complained that Young had only founded the free school that led to his OfS appointment because ‘he wanted to create a school for his kids’. Happily, Mr S’s colleague Fraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson

The Miliband puzzle

So why did Ed Miliband stop his brother being leader of the Labour Party? As each month of his uninspiring leadership passes, it becomes more of a puzzle. In today’s Guardian interview, we learn that he can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 90 seconds. Perhaps David Miliband took two minutes, leaving Ed to regard him as being intellectually inferior. The rest of the interview shows Ed trying to row back towards positions that David Miliband would have adopted from the offset: trying to claim fiscal responsibility, and credibility. The ‘In the black Labour’ movement is also an attempt to repair the repetitional damage being wreaked by Balls, whose calls for

The Spectator’s Notes | 16 June 2016

The Remain campaign takes as its model the ‘No’ one in the 2014 Scottish referendum. First and last — hence the Osborne/Darling fantasy horror Budget on Wednesday — inspire fear. Second, late in the day, leave it all to Labour and get Gordon Brown to make a passionate speech (Mr Brown took this too literally and made almost exactly the same passionate speech). Finally, shortly before polling, get leaders of all stripes to make a solemn ‘vow’ to win over the doubters. I am trying to work out what that vow could be. All 27 other member states promising some guarantee of Britain’s independence within the EU? This device has

Polly’s pleb adventure

Down and Out in Paris and London is a brilliant specimen from a disreputable branch of writing: the chav safari, the underclass minibreak, the sojourn on the scrapheap that inspires a literary monument. Orwell’s first book was turned down by Faber boss T.S. Eliot, who received the script under its original title, Confessions of a Dishwasher. New Diorama’s dramatisation brilliantly captures the raffish sleaziness of Paris in the 1920s. Orwell’s crew of thieves, parasites and drifters come across as comradely and charming in this magnificently squalid setting. The austere lighting and the ingenious stage effects are done with tremendous economy. There are flashes of bleak humour too. Orwell’s anvil-faced landlady

Polly Toynbee forgets to check her privilege on Marr

With the Sunday papers filled with the details of David Cameron’s past tax returns, the subject of his family’s wealth remains high on the news agenda. Happily Guardian heavyweight Polly Toynbee was on hand to offer her take on the row during the Andrew Marr show paper review. Toynbee argued that the real story was not any supposed wrongdoing on Cameron’s part when it comes to paying tax, but instead his personal wealth is the problem. She went on to muse that the Prime Minister was ‘phenomenally rich’ and that this would not sit well with the public given the ‘extraordinary growth of inequality in this country’: ‘That’s the real story, it’s not really about

Corbyn has won. So why are the north London lefties still so angry and nasty?

‘Jeremy Corbyn Night’ at the Forum in Kentish Town, on Monday night, should have been a scene of orgiastic pleasure for socialist Labour. Corbyn’s victory was the triumph the grand old reactionaries of north London have been waiting a generation for. But they weren’t happy; they were as angry and full of bile as ever. The scene took me right back to my childhood in Islington in the 1970s. My neighbours in the queue outside the Forum had posher voices than you hear at Annabel’s. The smart greybeards from the £2 million villas of Kentish Town and Islington were joined by a new generation of under-thirties: white, university-educated, also with upmarket

Many people feel their life is worthless. The Assisted Dying Bill tells them they might just be right

As Charles Killick Millard conceded, there was an issue about grandparents. Millard, the leading figure of the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society back in the 30s, realised that people might cajole their elderly relatives into choosing death. But this had its benefits, he argued: ‘It would make querulous old folk more careful how they dilated upon their aches and pains.’ Havelock Ellis, one of the Society’s celebrity supporters, was blunter: he expressed his annoyance that ‘we are terribly afraid of killing those citizens whom we all regard as financially unpromising.’ There is a callousness in those remarks which resurfaces whenever assisted suicide is put forward. You can hear it in Baroness

I’m not voting on Thursday — but don’t you dare call me apathetic

With just 48 hours to go before we get to vote in officially the most boring election in history, the great and good are fretting over the apathy of the little people. We’ve seen the emergence of Poets Against Apathy — a group of northern scribes keen to shake the public out of its anti-political stupor — and numerous newspaper articles bemoaning the apathy of the masses. A whole section of the Guardian website is devoted to ‘Voter apathy’, featuring Owen Jones, Polly Toynbee, Charlie Brooker and others shaking their liberal heads over the disengaged. Brooker even refers to them as ‘idiots’ who say ‘Bah to everything. BAH BAH BAH.’ This

Lord Freud: the man who saved the welfare system

It was mid-October and Downing Street was in a panic. Lord Freud, the welfare minister, had been secretly recorded suggesting that disabled people could be paid less than the minimum wage. Labour demanded Freud should go. The No. 10 press office was briefing journalists that he would be out within hours. Craig Oliver, excitable Downing Street director of communications, advised the Prime Minister that Freud was finished. There was talk of the return of the nasty party, and days of dreadful headlines. In the end David Cameron stayed loyal. Within 48 hours the story was forgotten. Welfare reform is the coalition’s most important achievement. Universal Credit is at the heart

The delicious cant of the Guardian is such a treat on a Saturday morning

One of the highlights of my week comes on a Saturday morning, when I make myself a cup of fair-trade coffee and settle down to read the letters page of the Guardian. My wife usually joins me — it’s a sort of date thing, romantic in its own way — and we sit there cackling, our cares and woes forgotten for a while. Sometimes it is the smug little commendations of some earnest article that has uncovered the suffering of an hitherto unreported minority of the population — that stuff is quite funny. But then all newspapers print letters from readers telling them how good they are. Much more fun

The Taylor Wessing Prize has no future if it continues to be so insipidly PC

We know what to expect from the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. Africans in tribal dress. Flame-haired girls posing with animals. Nudes, generally grotesque: obese hanging bellies, a limb missing here or there. Wizened (but wise!) faces. Low-level child pornography. In 2012 the National Portrait Gallery was fortunate to avoid the wandering gaze of Operation Yewtree. Certain archetypes always seem to make the grade. Perhaps the judges have finally woken up to the clichés, because the choice of finalists this year is not predictable but baffling. The first prize was awarded to David Titlow for a photograph of his nine month-old son. Imagine The Creation of Adam, with a dog in

Is it time for ‘nose-peg Toryism’?

Before the election in 2005, the magnificently grand Polly Toynbee made a generous offer to Guardian readers reluctant to vote for Tony Blair after Iraq. ‘There is much to be proud of in voting Labour — but I have a free offer for the reluctant. On my desk is a basket of wooden nose-pegs marked “Labour”. Any reluctant voter can have one of these to wear to the polls; apply here now,’ she said irresistibly. I seem to recall there was a bit of a run on them. I wonder whether the point has come for some obliging Tory journalist to make the same offer to disgruntled Conservatives. There is,

Grayling mounts a robust defence

The Work Experience scheme is a sensible policy innovation. Giving the unemployed structure to their days, the chance to earn some experience and learn some skills is surely preferable to doing nothing for them beyond bunging them some money every week. Indeed, I would say that it was by far the more compassionate policy. Chris Grayling’s robust response to Polly Toynbee’s criticisms is a welcome example of the coalition taking on its critics. Grayling, who had a torrid election campaign, has recovered his footing at DWP and the Work Programme he is running is potentially transformative. It is based on the idea that the companies and voluntary organisations involved are

IDS shows how arguments are won

For years, I have complained that the Conservatives have timidly stayed within Labour’s intellectual parameters, arguing that they need “permission” to make certain arguments and need to stay within the limits of what the public find acceptable. Such intellectual timidity confined them to opposition: they can never win, playing by Labour rules. Iain Duncan Smith is breaking free of this. It may be rash to predict it now, but I believe he is on the brink of a breakthrough in the way that welfare is regarded in Britain. This victory in a battle of ideas could be the greatest single blow against poverty in a generation. The extent of this

Not good enough

Tony Blair gave his record in government ten out of ten, though an ungrateful electorate scored rather less well and his Cabinet colleagues performed even worse. Sadly, they were ill-equipped to grasp his unique qualities of leadership. Milord Peter Mandelson reached broadly similar conclusions. Their instant apologia are meant to be the last word on the subject, living obituaries on 13 years in power. So what are we to make of the verdict of New Labour’s two most respectable cheerleaders, who offer a ‘not good enough’ six out of ten for their government’s performance? Toynbee and Walker (they sound like an old-established firm of country solicitors — ‘very reliable, y’know’)

YouGov have the Lib Dems on top

Tonight’s YouGov tracker has the Lib Dems on 33 percent (up 4), the Tories on 32 percent (down 1) and Labour on 26 percent (down 4).  So the topsy-turviness continues – but for how long?

Brown’s troubles are returning at just the right time for Cameron & Co.

First she loved him.  Then she hated him.  Then she seemed lukewarm towards him.  And, today, she’s gone back to hating him more than ever.  Yes, Polly Toynbee’s latest column is another marker stone in her oscillating relationship with Gordon Brown, and it doesn’t contain any minced words: “Cancel new year, put back the clocks and forget the fireworks. There is nothing to celebrate in the dismal year ahead. The Labour party is sledging down a black run, eyes tight shut, the only certainty the electoral wall at the bottom of the hill. In five months David Cameron will be prime minister and Gordon Brown will be toast. Remember him?

The Lost Generation

I always get it in the neck here when I quote Polly Toynbee. But maybe I will get away with quoting her quoting Professor Danny Blanchflower, who, like me, is warning against losing a generation to the recession. Here’s the relevant passage from Polly’s column in today’s Guardian: “The man now on a mission to persuade Nos 10 and 11 to move fast is the only monetary policy committee member who saw the coming crash. Ministers are listening as Professor David Blanchflower urges emergency spending to prevent mass youth unemployment. With 800,000 under-25s out of work and another 600,000 leaving school this summer, he wants the budget to borrow £90bn to rescue

Is the Left Waking From Its Slumber?

A rather impassioned piece on unemployment from Polly Toynbee in yesterday’s Guardian made me realise that there are a number of people on the liberal-left in Britain thinking very hard about the implications of the global recession. “Has the horror of it all struck Westminster with full force?,” asks Polly? I think they are beginning to, but the problem is that they are stuck in the politics of the late-1990s census, which had us all triangulating like mad. All the clamour for an apology from the Prime Minister stems from a desire for him to atone for all our sins. It was difficult not to embrace the market when the