Talk:Polly Toynbee: Difference between revisions

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:Don't bother. Toynbee's ''Guardian'' salary was reported a few years ago, in ''[[Private Eye]]'', as being £140,000, a fraction of the amount earned by many of those who attack her as being out of touch because of that income. The ''Eye'' is not considered a reliable source on WP, so the reference is likely to be removed. The person whose comments about the Tuscan villa have been referenced before, a certain Mr [[Richard Littlejohn]], is known to live in Florida for much of the year. [[User:Philip Cross|Philip Cross]] ([[User talk:Philip Cross|talk]]) 18:51, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
:Don't bother. Toynbee's ''Guardian'' salary was reported a few years ago, in ''[[Private Eye]]'', as being £140,000, a fraction of the amount earned by many of those who attack her as being out of touch because of that income. The ''Eye'' is not considered a reliable source on WP, so the reference is likely to be removed. The person whose comments about the Tuscan villa have been referenced before, a certain Mr [[Richard Littlejohn]], is known to live in Florida for much of the year. [[User:Philip Cross|Philip Cross]] ([[User talk:Philip Cross|talk]]) 18:51, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
::Mr Littlejohn isn't campaigning for higher taxes or lower carbon emissions. You may or may not agree with his actions, but he is at least no hypocrite. <span style="font-size: smaller;" class="autosigned">—Preceding [[Wikipedia:Signatures|unsigned]] comment added by [[Special:Contributions/|]] ([[User talk:|talk]]) 13:10, 19 January 2010 (UTC)</span><!-- Template:UnsignedIP --> <!--Autosigned by SineBot-->
::Mr Littlejohn isn't campaigning for higher taxes or lower carbon emissions. You may or may not agree with his actions, but he is at least no hypocrite. <span style="font-size: smaller;" class="autosigned">—Preceding [[Wikipedia:Signatures|unsigned]] comment added by [[Special:Contributions/|]] ([[User talk:|talk]]) 13:10, 19 January 2010 (UTC)</span><!-- Template:UnsignedIP --> <!--Autosigned by SineBot-->
This article is a disgrace. It is undoubtedly censored in order to paint Ms Toynbee in as positive a light as it can possibly get away with. Criticism, cited or otherwise, is very quickly removed as is any reference, however subtle, to her particular brand of left wing, middle class hypocrisy. There is no doubt that a significant number of people in the UK do not hold her in high regard at all (and this is putting it mildly), in fact quite the opposite is true. Despite this being the case, there is no mention whatsoever of how widely discredited her opinions are amongst such a large section of British society and indeed how deeply disliked she is by that section as a result; if anyone says they need citations to be convinced of the voracity of the above statement then they truly are deluded. Much emphasis is placed throughout on the support and plaudits she receives from various quarters and whilst this is something which certainly cannot be denied - she does indeed have many supporters and admirers as well as detractors and critics - it is the unjustified concentration on the former which makes the article so unbalanced. Other than the briefest of references to what is made to appear as slight criticism, quickly associated with political opponents from the Conservative Party and Islamists who dislike her secularist beliefs, the article reads almost like a tribute page - not at all what one is entitled to expect from Wikipedia; it is shameful and very disappointing, yet not at all surprising unfortunately - those of Ms Toynbee’s ilk (by which I mean the 'intellectual' middle class hypocrites of the Liberal Left) simply cannot accept that criticism of them is in any way justified and believe it simply should not appear in print. I will not be at all surprised to find that even this discussion page entry is deleted within hours of being typed, if not sooner. For these reasons I would not even attempt to amend the article by adding anything remotely critical, cited or not. Sadly, in articles devoted to left wing individuals or organisations, it is all too often the case that such actions are futile - censorship is the order of the day. <span style="font-size: smaller;" class="autosigned">—Preceding [[Wikipedia:Signatures|unsigned]] comment added by [[Special:Contributions/|]] ([[User talk:|talk]]) 13:56, 4 March 2011 (UTC)</span><!-- Template:UnsignedIP --> <!--Autosigned by SineBot-->
:You need to acquaint yourself with the basic Wikipedia policies of [[WP:V]] and [[WP:NPOV]] as well as [[WP:BLP]]. [[User:Rd232|Rd232]] <sup>[[user talk:rd232|talk]]</sup> 15:26, 4 March 2011 (UTC)
== Gadfly ==
== Gadfly ==

Revision as of 17:48, 4 March 2011

Welsh language

I don't know if the part on the welsh language (section political views) is particularly helpful, especially in the way it is worded. Could someone clean this up? (talk) 14:38, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

Criticsm elsewhere

There is a lot of criticism levelled at Toynbee from within both the libertarian and right-wing elements of the blogosphere and there has been some very well researched and cited articles showing where she has badly interpreted or misrepresented facts. Some of these involve anonymous blogs which I understand are not suitable for cites (Despite Wikipedia edits being advised to be made under a pseudonym). However I think this material should at least be referenced in the page, since it criticises her journalistic work, rather being simple attack quotes from her political rivals. I'm thinking of sites like or What would be an appropriate way of including this type of material? ImaginingTheGreenIsRed (talk) 22:07, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

The existing criticism section just quotes personal attacks (albeit from well-known figures). Autarch (talk) 11:35, 23 December 2008 (UTC)


"has been described as the journalistic equivalent of an internet troll".

Fathers For Justice Matt O'Connor

For Polly to claim in her newspaper that any father denied the human right to see or speak to their own children under UK law should be sent to prison for protesting is frankly the reason the paper she works for is not fit for toilet paper. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:40, 30 October 2007 (UTC)


preceding comment by Raygirvan (talk), 21:39, 9 May 2005 (UTC)


Polly's articles in the Guardian's Comment Is Free (CiF) section are famous for the number replies that are moderated or even deleted without trace.

Any mention of her 2nd home in Tuscany or the fabulous money she receives for writing for the Guardian is removed without hesitation.

I will try to get details of her salary & Tuscan home. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:29, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

Don't bother. Toynbee's Guardian salary was reported a few years ago, in Private Eye, as being £140,000, a fraction of the amount earned by many of those who attack her as being out of touch because of that income. The Eye is not considered a reliable source on WP, so the reference is likely to be removed. The person whose comments about the Tuscan villa have been referenced before, a certain Mr Richard Littlejohn, is known to live in Florida for much of the year. Philip Cross (talk) 18:51, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Mr Littlejohn isn't campaigning for higher taxes or lower carbon emissions. You may or may not agree with his actions, but he is at least no hypocrite. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:10, 19 January 2010 (UTC)


she is an intellectual gadfly, while I don't necessarily disagree with this assesment, it is clearly POV, so I'm removing it.--Alun 20:32, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

I wouldn't see that as objectionable - it's a concise way of saying that she isn't just reproducing a 'chattering class' line. Charles Matthews 16:25, 23 May 2005 (UTC)
Dunno. "Gadfly" implies to me a specific role, writing irritating stuff to constructive purpose (ie goading the establishment into thought). Though I also think it a reasonable assessment, that interpretation nevertheless looks to me a POV inference rather than a generally-agreed fact. RayGirvan 19:53, 23 May 2005 (UTC)
Gadflies are always constructive? But perhaps this should all be spelled out anyway. Charles Matthews 11:30, 25 May 2005 (UTC)

It still seems to me that it's a POV statement. If one describes her as an intellectual gadfly and someone else disagrees (for example claims that she's merely contrary), then both, surely must be points of view. And of course stating that some consider her to be... doesn't cut the mustard either.--Alun 17:52, 28 May 2005 (UTC)

It seems to me that she is a rather silly old woman who has profited by her name. Who would be so stupid as to blame the Pope for the AIDS crisis in Africa, or anywhere for that matter. Silly Cow.
preceding comment by (talk), 01:17, 11 June 2005 (UTC)

Left-wing or Liberal?

In my view in the UK context, "left wing" refers to someone to the left of Tony Blair and New Labour. Toynbee is ex-SDP, and a supporter, on the whole, of the Blair project. In as much as she differs from Blair, it is over the governments non-secular policies, secularism being a well-known LIBERAL objective. Thus I stand by my amendment of a month ago, and will act accordingly. Philip Cross 18:14, 8 March 2006 (UTC)

Polly has never refered to herself as a "Liberal". If we look, for example, at her stances on taxation, she recently claimed that Britain is currently "not a high enough tax country." That is not a Liberal remark and neither are many of her suedo-socialist utterings. It's left-wing I'm afraid.
preceding comment by (talk)
Has Polly refered to herself as 'left-wing' either? One can be liberal politically yet want higher taxes, ie. Liberal Democrats. You may be getting confused with economic liberalism. please see Liberalism for more details. Also, 'left wing' / 'right wing' are such vague terms (different meanings on different sides of the atlantic) that their use on wikipedia shouldn't be encouraged, particularly when a much more accurate term is available. Veej 01:34, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
But the term "liberal" has an even more sharp divide in meaning between the different sides of the Altantic.
James F. (talk) 14:16, 23 April 2006 (UTC)

In the MoS today Peter Hitchens describes her as "the liberal commentator Polly Toynbee" so I think that supports the term "liberal". Miamomimi 23:02, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

Given the general context in which Peter Hitchens writes, it's highly unlikely he is referring to her as an economic liberal. His concerns have generally been in reference to social and moral trends (see his wiki article for details). The "Blair Project" is, generally speaking, an economic one, or at least that's where the labour party has divisions on it (not many divisions around improving social responsibility or civil partnerships).
Therefore, it would seem fair to describe Toynbee as a social liberal but unfair to call her an economic one and if the only cited basis for referring to her as a liberal in the article is Hitchen's comment, then the "moral" context should be made clear. Kayman1uk 10:14, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
And... having reread the article, I think it does that. Kayman1uk 10:16, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
For that matter Peter Hitchens describes Polly Toynbee as "left-wing" at least twice in the collection of his old Express articles, Monday Morning Blues. Probably Hitchens is not the best arbiter to cite, though I cannot help wondering if he gets royalty payments from Richard Desmond's company for it. Despite Toynbee's occasional illiberal attitudes, the attack on the Scottish contingent in New Labour some years ago for example, the term "liberal" has a consistent enough meaning in the anglophone world for anyone coming across the article not to misled as to where Toynbee is coming from. Philip Cross 14:14, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

Have we adopted American usage of the world 'liberal' wholesale in this country? Polly Toynbee is certainly not liberal as the term is normally used in the UK (note that she returned to the Labour Party after the SDP merger with the Liberals). She may or may not be 'left-wing', a fairly subjective term anyway. She, however, certainly is a social democrat, so perhaps we could call her a social democratic commentator? Gerry Lynch 11:00, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

Her liberal-ness (in the sense of law and order) is mildly authorotarian, with calls to prevent the opening of 'super casinos' being an example of her desire for the state to take away 'freedom of choice'. She is not 'liberal' if we are considering liberal to mean in favour of maximum individual freedom - almost all of her publications favour more action by the state and (in turn) less 'freedom of choice' from the individual.
Whether or not one agrees with her stances, her writing shows her to be in favour of increased state power in virtually all aspects of our life. Her policies are 'progressive' in that she continually pushes for great redistribution of wealth and better services for the public.
This entry, I think, doesn't mention enough about her 'political stance' - as she is a leading 'opinions page' collumnist I feel it would be a worthwhile addition to the article (although I understand difficult to produce from a NPOV). ny156uk 18:20, 2 November 2006 (UTC)
Advocating super casinos is hardly 'liberal' in the social sense, which how the term seems to be mostly used in the US and the UK. "Taking away freedom of choice" by NOT having them, hardly a case of "increased state power" then, is an 'economically liberal' or neo-liberal argument, and Toynbee is not in that camp. Are you suggesting we make the distinction clear each time potential confusion aries? Who in any case wants them apart from the gambling companies and New Labour? Philip Cross 19:37, 2 November 2006 (UTC)
I am suggesting that it is wrong to suggest that Toynbee is Liberal in the basic sense, and since the classic sense is derived from the long-held meaning of the ideology then it should be qualified to be the branch of liberalism that most closely relates to her views (seemingly social liberalism).
The casino part is mostly irrelevent, I was trying to show an example where her preference is less-individual freedom and more government-control (that it is the status quo doesn't matter). Her position, I believe, would firmly put her in the social-liberalism section you mentioned and if you look at the articles on both types you must see the differences are quite significant and worthy of seperation. Ny156uk 23:11, 2 November 2006
She may not be left wing of Philip Cross, but she is certainly left-wing, as is the Guardian Newspaper she writes for. Ironically, it seems Philip (who's spent time slurring Peter Hitchens) is actually embarassed of the "left-wing" label. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:20, 19 May 2009 (UTC)
I moved you comments anonymous user as it is usual to place them chronologically. You could have started a new section, or better still in addition, archived the three year old debate to give your comments greater prominemnce. Philip Cross (talk) 14:32, 19 May 2009 (UTC)

More evidence of not being liberal

Following up my consideration that she is not liberal, her piece in the newspapers this week (,,1941209,00.html) shows yet again examples of her believing in state-power over individual freedom. ny156uk 17:44, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

Toynbee would argue that you are presenting a false dichotomy between state action and individual freedom. How free is a person with no money at all? They are not opposites; somtimes state action can enhance freedom.

This was the insight of the New Liberals of the early twentieth century, who moved liberalism on from the rather nineteenth century view you hold.

Clearly, to avoid this confusion, it is sensible to describe her as a social democrat. Polly is in favour of social democracy, a mixture of states and markets, on the Scandanavian model. You are acting as if she is some kind of Stalinist who believes in total state control, which is absurd. Indeed, she is a militant defender of free speech from the incursions of the state, to name just one. David r from meth productions 17:38, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

Biography assessment rating comment

The article may be improved by following the WikiProject Biography 11 easy steps to producing at least a B article.-- Jreferee 22:31, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Narnia quote

My contention is that this passage should be retained. Toynbee's attitude to religion is a significant part of her outlook, and this passage develops the reference to her atheism. She is a prominent atheist in Britain, and the reference here to 'disbelief' should not be allowed to be merely passing. It is also perhaps the reason why certain people not a million miles away from the Daily Mail (sorry, Mail on Sunday) tend to loathe her. Philip Cross 20:29, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

Fair enough, but if it's such an important part of who she is and what she writes about, shouldn't there be something better than a review of a children's film to illustrate it? If that's all that we can find, then you would have to draw that conclusion that it (being criticism of Christianity) is a particularly important part of her writing at all-ie by all means lets have something about her criticising Christianity, or Judaism-but something a bit more substantial than her slagging off a kiddies film.Any ideas?FelixFelix talk 11:02, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
Interview added as external link may provide useful material for expanding Toynbee's views on religion. Pdch (talk) 18:46, 22 December 2007 (UTC)

Nickle and Dimed

The wikilink was removed as it is a repeat link in the same section as per manual of style FelixFelix talk 15:38, 3 August 2007 (UTC)

Littlejohn quote

Discovered from the cited blog that it was inaccurately rendered. Also replaced the source with the address of the article on The Times website. I am sure Littlejohn has used the other phrase at some point though. Philip Cross (talk) 12:42, 6 November 2008 (UTC)

Edit war

Toynbee's politics are detailed fairly at length in a nuanced way in the article. This obsession with tagging her with a broad brush in the opening sentence is PoV pushing. (It is also peculiarly inaccurate as she is often derided as a champagne socialist on the Guardian's web site...) Mezigue (talk) 13:10, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

Well said, Mezigue. Philip Cross (talk) 13:18, 20 May 2009 (UTC)
Toynbee is clearly and openly left-wing and socially liberal. You only have to see what she writes as well as the publications that she writes in to see that. Furthermore, the issue of whether being left-wing of socially liberal is really a PoV. A non-socialist may find it an insult, but a socialist would consider it a compliment. Eitherway, wiki is here to give the facts, so let's let the reader decide whether being left-wing of socially liberal is good or bad. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jbsingh11 (talkcontribs) 14:19, 20 May 2009 (UTC)
As I pointed out the article details her politics already. "You only have to see what she writes..." is a poor argument in favour of applying a broad tag in the opening paragraph, which I don't think is customary on Wikipedia. Who you write for also doesn't define your politics; for instance the Guardian also employs broadly conservative writers. Mezigue (talk) 14:31, 20 May 2009 (UTC)
Well said JBSingh. @ Mezigue, I think the point is that the Guardian is typically a left-wing newspaper, but more importantly, Polly Toynbees contributions are left-wing.
I have protected the article from editing until this matter is resolved. Please discuss things here and reach consensus. I have no objection to any uninvolved administrator lifting protection once agreement has been reached. It is my hope that such agreement will be reached quickly so that editing by all can continue. Xymmax So let it be written So let it be done 18:25, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

Xynmax, can I thank you for your involvement. In the spirit of the "olive branch", I would certainly reconsider my opposition to the content deletion if firm evidence were to be presented to show that Polly Toynbee is no longer of left-wing persuasion or socially liberal (with emphasis on the word "socially") —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:49, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

You're welcome, but I just want the edit warring to end. Along those lines, since it now has been almost a week, I am unprotecting the article despite the lack of discussion about the matter here. All editors are on notice that the edits in question are disputed, please discuss the matter here first rather than reverting each other repeatedly. Remember, you can be blocked for fewer than the 4 reversions required under 3RR if what you are doing amounts to edit warring. Xymmax So let it be written So let it be done 14:54, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

I see that as soon as the article was unprotected, Phillip Cross re-ignited the edit war with absolutely no attempt to comment or engage in discussion in this section as had been asked (despite someone on the other side of the disagreement trying to engage him :-( So I've summarily re-verted his edit. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jbsingh11 (talkcontribs) 21:27, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

He removed a phrase which there was no general support for, which had been left in when the page was protected. The appropriate thing is to remove it and discuss before adding it. See also WP:BLP. Rd232 talk 21:30, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
There was as much support for the information to be included as for it to be deleted. It isn't contentious information in the slightest. Nor would calling Margaret Thatcher right-wing be contentious. There are political interests at foot here attempting to supress information and that weakens wiki. Jbsingh11 (talk) 22:41, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
You're new here, so I'll point you to assume good faith policy. Rd232 talk 23:10, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
For the umpteenth time, no "information" has been removed. Toynbee's politics are described in the article. The introduction sentence is not the place to put crude tags in. This is about applying consistency of style. In addition, you don't seem to know much about British politics if you have Toynbee down as some sort of radical. Perhaps if you actually read the article you keep wanting to edit you would see that she is in many ways more of a centrist.Mezigue (talk) 09:20, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

You want to have the phrase "left-wing, socially liberal" added in the lead sentence. The issue is (a) is this accurate; are there sources supporting this? and (b) does this merit inclusion in the lead sentence, on which we should (if we sort out (a)) try to find consensus. Please do not reinsert the description - this will constitute edit warring. Rd232 talk 23:10, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

Crickey what do you call her then? A responsible conservative? Sorry, but she *is* left-wing and socially liberal and I can't see why she would describe herself any differently. It doesn't make her a *bad* person by being labelled this way, even though personally I find what she says to be horrifying, nauseating and irresponsible. Surely the introductions is exactly the place to convey (or label) in a few words what she stands for. To show just much out of step this discussion thread is, the Guardian's own website says as an introduction: "Polly Toynbee is a columnist for the Guardian and president of the Social Policy Association. She was formerly BBC social affairs editor" (bit of a snip at the end, I've left off a few other references). Why would you want to describe her as anything else? That's what they give as an introduction to flavour their view on the matter. I don't simply understanding what is trying to be defended here. RichyBoy (talk) 23:17, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
I mean by "I don't simply understand what is trying to be defended here" when primary sources quote her as being that way as well, surely this is well beyond a few wiki editors PoV and established fact, get with the programme. RichyBoy (talk) 23:22, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Out of step with what? The article as it says in the introduction that "She is a social democrat and broadly supports the Labour Party, while urging it in many areas to be more left-wing" which is accurate and helpful. I do not understand what point you are trying to make with the profile quote. Mezigue (talk) 14:56, 2 September 2009 (UTC)

Broken format

There seems to be something broken with the article - everything below footnote 9 (in the Ref section) is invisible (though the missing bits - external links and categories - appear if I click on the "up" arrow of ref 9). :( Rd232 talk 21:43, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

never mind - seems ok now. Rd232 talk 22:12, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

Why is she known as Polly?

Does anyone know why she's called Polly when she was born Mary Louisa? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 02:35, June 25, 2009

Polly is a traditional nickname for Mary. --Malcolmxl5 (talk) 21:02, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
I added her birth names some time ago. As it is a little known fact about Toynbee, a citationn probably ought to be added. My source was the ODNB entry on her father, Philip Toynbee. Philip Cross (talk) 13:39, 26 June 2009 (UTC)


Minor point. Some sources, including Toynbee's contributor page on The Guardian's website suggest Toynbee's novel was first published in 1969. This is incorrect, if details on Amazon and the AbeBooks website are accurate. I have changed the date. The 1966 edition predates the ISBN system; the sequence quoted is for the 1969 paperback reprint, which might be too pedantic to point out - or risk potential confusion for someone. Philip Cross (talk) 18:35, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Some questions

How does a woman with one A level get a scholarship to Oxford? How does a university drop-out with one A level "drift" into a job at The Observer when such jobs are very highly sought after?  SmokeyTheCat  •TALK• 06:55, 18 April 2010 (UTC)

Smokey, these are valid queries. The Philip Whitehead book The Writing on the Wall contains a reference to a Toynbee article from the seventies in which she writes about candidate interviews for admission to a medical school. It is quite a few years since I read the book, but the tutor's knowledge of the father's history was a factor in their acceptance into the institution. Perhaps worth a trip to Colindale to read the original article(s) and solve the OR problem.
Listening to the Blanton Webster sides as I type this. Philip Cross (talk) 11:38, 18 April 2010 (UTC)