Elsewhere (38)
What Cassini Sees

The Impervious Toynbee

Another classic sentence from the you-know-what: 

By deliberate misrepresentation, drip, drip, week after week, the powerful interests of wealth deliberately distort reality.

So says the leftwing millionaire Polly Toynbee, whose own intermittent relationship with facts and logic is of course quite famous, even earning her the honour of an entire website devoted to listing and correcting her various errors and distortions. One glorious Toynbee article contains no fewer than five factual errors in a single 21-word sentence. Sadly, this effort to correct the finest Guardian journalism has since become dormant, its author possibly having collapsed under the weight of the endeavour.

Ms Toynbee’s own struggles with realism often take intriguing forms, not least in her belief that the state should “become the best possible nanny to all babies,” and her enthusiasm for the idea that “disruptive 16-year-old boys” should be taken out of class to spend a term being taught the finer points of dance, thereby resulting in a “transformation in the whole year group.”

When not curing classroom delinquency with the thrill of modern tap, Ms Toynbee rails against “the unjust rewards of the rich,” by which she means, “the 1.5% who earn over £100,000.” These, she says, are the “extravagant earners” who “feel profoundly entitled to take what they like in salaries… untouched by public disgust or a sense of propriety.” Toynbee’s Guardian salary, for years a subject of speculation, was eventually revealed as £106,000 - excluding royalties, advances, media fees, etc. Curiously, Polly’s own financial rewards are not deemed “extravagant,” “unjust” or in any way improper, such is her ability to apprehend reality.

And let’s not forget Ms Toynbee’s conviction that obesity isn’t chiefly a matter of inactivity and overeating but instead has a more pernicious cause, i.e. a lack of socialism:

It is inequality and disrespect that makes people fat.  

To bolster this radical insight Toynbee made a number of further claims regarding economic inequality and expanded waistlines, each of which proved to be either misleading or untrue.

But Polly is by any measure a complicated woman, one whose on-again-off-again infatuation with Gordon “the Viking” Brown is now the stuff of legend, and whose property portfolio – including a £2.4 million London townhouse, another home in Lewes and a Tuscan holiday villa - is maintained with the proceeds of writing about the poor.