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July 17, 2007

Polly on Boris

Oh yes, this is going to be absolutely marvellous. Boris running for London Mayor will be worth it purely and solely for the apoplexy it will cause in Polly Toynbee. This is going to be a very, very enjoyable year:

Of course if a monkey can be elected mayor of Hartlepool, Boris Johnson might be elected mayor of London. Jester, toff, self-absorbed sociopath and serial liar, the man could still win. Even Conrad Black called him "a duplicitous scoundrel", and he should know.

Crikey, what could the man have done to deserve this? Surely it's not the shagging of Petronella is it? After all, Polly does approve of the abortion of unwanted children doesn't she? Hazarding a very vague guess, perhaps it might be this?

In so far as New Labour has a fairy godmother, Polly is the girl. She incarnates all the nannying, high-taxing, high-spending schoolmarminess of Blair's Britain. She is the defender and friend of everyone whose non-job has ever been advertised in the Guardian appointments page, every gay and lesbian outreach worker, every clipboard-toter and pen-pusher and form-filler whose function has been generated by mindless regulation. Polly is the high priestess of our paranoid, mollycoddled, risk-averse, airbagged, booster-seated culture of political correctness and 'elf 'n' safety fascism. In an ideal Polly Toynbee world, private sector broadcasting would be banned, Rupert Murdoch would be nationalised, and the BBC would hire thousands more taxpayer-funded social affairs correspondents to psalm the benefits of social democracy.

In Polly Toynbee heaven the NHS would drive out all private competition, and taxes would go up to fund it. How the hell, you may ask, can a proper Tory find anything to admire in Polly's world view? All I can say is that when I had come out of my faint, and read what Greg was saying, I saw, naturally, that he was absolutely right. In spite of all she gets wrong, there are things that Polly says that are serious and true, and that any Conservative government should be saying. I don't just mean her stance on fox-hunting, admirable though it is. I recall some powerful pieces in favour of the immemorial rights of the British to slaughter foxes - as you might expect from a gel who is a descendant not just of various ineffably grand Toynbees but also of Gilbert Murray and the Earls of Carlisle. More important still, she is also deeply conservative and Conservative in some of the things she does, as opposed to the things she says.

She joins the usual Labour snarling against fee-paying education, and selective education of all kinds. In reality, of course, she is the beneficiary of a highly selective education and also sent her own offspring to one of the most expensive and competitive public schools in the country, an establishment way beyond the means of most people.

Of course there will be those who accuse her of monstrous hypocrisy, and wonder how she can write her hate-filled philippics about selection in education, and how on earth she can insist on imposing a one-size-fits-all comprehensive system on the rest of the country, and close down the opportunities of so many poor but bright kids, when she has so ruthlessly maximised the opportunities of her own children.

To which I reply: oh well, of course she is a hypocrite; but by their deeds shall ye know them! Never mind the rhetoric of her Guardian column. In her actions, Polly emerges as someone who cares about securing the best possible chances for her own children, and in that way she is bowing before the strongest and deepest conservative force of all, a great and immutable fact of human nature, a truth of biology and motherhood compared with which a thousand hypocritical Guardian columns are nothing but chaff.

Then there will be those who complain that it is hypocritical of Polly to have her lovely second home in Italy, to which she doubtless repairs on so many cheapo flights that she has personally quilted the earth in a tea-cosy of CO2; to which I say, yes, it probably is wrong of Polly to keep calling for higher taxes when that would put such opportunities - for air travel to second homes - beyond the reach of millions slightly less fortunate than her. But never mind the hypocrisy: look at the fundamental Tory behaviour. At least she's renting the villa out at pretty keen rates. Good on you, Polly! You can't buck the market, as Mrs Thatcher used to say.

And the private-school-using, villa-owning Polly Toynbee is also right in this paramount sense: that if natural Tories like Polly are to have a hope of governing this country again, then they must show that they know and care about what life is like for those who do not have it as easy as they do.

It is easy to make fun of Polly Toynbee. It is easy to convict her of hypocrisy; but she genuinely knows and cares about the bottom 20 per cent. She is right that there are too many people in poverty under this Government, and right that they are overworked and overtaxed. It is a deep conservative insight that life is competitive, and that there will always be people who can get into the good schools, because they have Toynbee genes or money, and there will be people who are less lucky.

And if you believe that there must always be winners and losers - as I do - then you must understand that a healthy society will do its best to look after the losers. She may be a hypocrite, she may be a solid Thatcherite in her approach to property rentals and private education, but Polly Toynbee has made herself an authority on the evils of Gordon Brown's high taxes on low earners, and for that alone she deserves respect. Greg Clark is right. Welcome to the Tory party, Polly. Let's all have tea!

We're going to have a whole lovely year full of such loaded columns at dawn. Aren't we the lucky ones? Polly also offers the odd hostage to fortune in her column:

(He earned more than £400,000 last year in journalism and after-dinner speaking on top of his MP's salary.)

That is, err, less than her boss, Alan Rusbridger earned of course. And as Polly won't tell us what she earned, we can't compare it. It's a tad off, isn't it, to complain of the incomes of others, to reveal them, and insist that one's own be kept secret?

I also think we might have a contender to pick up the reins where Factcheckingpollyanna left off:

In the meantime you should focus on your fact checking which is pretty crap for a star columnist who takes herself so very seriously:

Osborne didn't go to Eton.  He went to St Pauls.

Cameron wasn't born into great wealth. His dad was a broker whose net worth was similar to quite a few middle class Labour families.

"Tories running top City firms and Conservative boroughs won't find the Boris Johnson candidacy charmingly funny." - A dodgy assertion. Evidence, please.

"But it's truly alarming that he who has never run anything except his own image" Or The Spectator, the UK's largest political weekly.

"the rightwing columnist Andrew Gilligan" - A straight smear against a left-of-centre journalist who dares to deviate from the Toynbee-approved line. The alternative explanation, that Polly is confusing Gilligan with the rightwing columnist (and Boris biographer) Andrew Gimson, is too ridiculous to be contemplated.

July 17, 2007 in Politics | Permalink


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"Jester, toff, self-absorbed sociopath and serial liar, the man could still win."

I know it's probably considered good English to say it that way, but I think for the purposes of avoiding confusion, Polly should define "the man" as "Boris" so we know for certain who Polly is talking about.

Posted by: IanCroydon | Jul 17, 2007 9:12:53 AM

I always win - don't kid yourselves.

Posted by: The Man | Jul 17, 2007 12:12:04 PM

Manual trackback to this - http://www.di2.nu/200707/17.htm

Posted by: Francis | Jul 17, 2007 2:03:24 PM

Interesting how casually Polly brushes over Ken's anti-Semitic tendencies, or perhaps she's just being a good psudeo-leftist?

Posted by: MJW | Jul 17, 2007 2:46:51 PM

A bit of an intellectual mismatch, though, Pilly vs Boris, wouldn't you say?

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 17, 2007 5:33:17 PM

Polly just can't stand that Boris has shown what kind of hyporcrite she is

Posted by: Jeroen Smit | Jul 24, 2007 4:41:42 PM