- Polly Toynbee
name = Polly Toynbee
birthname = Mary Louisa Toynbee
27 December 1946
Isle of Wight, England, UK
ethnic = English
religion = Atheist
credits = Social Affairs editor: the
Polly Toynbee (born Mary Louisa Toynbee on
December 27, 1946) is a journalist and writer in the United Kingdom, and has been a columnistfor " The Guardian" newspaper since 1998. She is a social democratand broadly supports the Labour party, while urging it in many areas to be more radical. She was appointed President of the British Humanist Associationin July 2007.cite web|url= http://www.humanism.org.uk/site/cms/newsarticleview.asp?article=2382|title= Polly Toynbee named new Presidentof British HumanistAssociation|accessdate= 2008-04-21|year= 2007|month= July|publisher= British Humanist Association]
She was born on the
Isle of Wight. After attending Badminton School, a girls' independent schoolin Bristol, followed by the Holland Park School, a state comprehensive schoolin London(she had failed the Eleven Plus examination), she read historyat St Anne's College, Oxford, but left before completing her degree to work in factories and schools to document the lives of poorer people for a book. She then went into journalism, working for many years at "The Guardian" before joining the BBCwhere she was social affairs editor (1988–1995). At " The Independent", which she joined after leaving the BBC, she was a columnist and associate editor, working with then editor Andrew Marr. After Marr's principal spell as "Independent" editor she rejoined "The Guardian". She has also written for " The Observer" and the " Radio Times"; at one time she edited the " Washington Monthly USA". Currently Toynbee serves as Presidentof the Social Policy Association. [cite web|url= http://www.social-policy.com/contacts.aspx|title= SPA Executive Committee 2007-08|accessdate= 2008-04-21|work= Website of the UK Social Policy Association|publisher= Social Policy Association]
Polly Toynbee was married to the late Peter Jenkins, also a journalist. Both she and Jenkins were supporters of the Social Democratic Party breakaway from Labour in 1981 – both signing the
Limehouse Declaration. Toynbee stood for the party at the 1983 General Election in Lewisham East, garnering 9351 votes (22%). She later became something of a rarity in refusing to support the subsequent merger of the SDP with the Liberals (to form the Liberal Democrats), reacting instead by moving back towards Labour when the rump SDP collapsed.
Although she has been consistently critical of many of
Tony Blair's New Labourreforms and especially of his foreign policy, she has stated that he and Gordon Brownhave led "the best government of my lifetime". [cite web|url= http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/11/26/do2608.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2006/11/26/ixopinion.html|title= Profile: Polly Toynbee|accessdate= 2007-04-21|last= Langley|first= William|date= 2006-11-26|publisher= " The Daily Telegraph"]
During the 2005 General Election, with dissatisfaction high among traditional Labour voters Toynbee wrote several times about the dangers of protest voting, "Giving Blair a bloody nose". She urged "Guardian" readers to vote with a
clothes pegover their nose if they had to, to make sure Michael Howardwould not win from a split vote. "Voters think they can take a free hit at Blair while assuming Labour will win anyway. But Labour won't win if people won't vote for it". [cite web|url= http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/election2005/archives/2005/04/13/hold_your_nose_and_vote_labour.html|title= Hold your nose and vote Labour|accessdate= 2008-04-21|last= Toynbee
first= Polly|date= 2005-04-13|publisher= Guardian Unlimited]
In December 2006, an advisor to Tory leader
David Cameronclaimed Toynbee should be an influence on the modern Conservative Party, causing a press furore. Cameron later clarified this to say he was impressed by one metaphor in her writings - of society being a caravan crossing a desert, where the people at the back can fall so far behind they are no longer part of the tribe. He added, "I will not be introducing Polly Toynbee's policies." Toynbee expressed some discomfort with this embrace, adding, "I don't suppose the icebergs had much choice about being hugged by Cameron either." [cite web|url= http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/11/23/do2301.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2006/11/23/ixopinion.html|title= Polly Toynbee the Tory guru: that's barking. Or maybe not |accessdate= 2008-04-21|last= Johnson|first= Boris|authorlink= Boris Johnson|date= 2006-11-23|publisher= " The Daily Telegraph"]
Toynbee was awarded an
Honorary Degreeby London South Bank Universityin 2002. [cite web|url= http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/about/honoraryDegrees.shtml|title= Honorary Degrees|accessdate= 2008-04-21|publisher= London South Bank University] In 2005, she was made an Honorary Doctor of The Open Universityfor "her notable contribution to the educational and cultural well-being of society". The University of Leedsawarded her third Honorary Doctorate in 2008. She is chair of the Brighton Festival.
"Hard Work: Life in Low-Pay Britain"
Following in the footsteps of
Barbara Ehrenreich's ' Nickel and Dimed' (2001), she published in 2003 "Hard Work: Life in Low-Pay Britain" about an experimental period voluntarily living on the minimum wage, which was £4.10 per hour at the time. She worked as a hospital porterin a National Health Servicehospital, a dinnerlady in a primary school, a nursery assistant, a call-centre employee, a cake factory worker and a care homeassistant. The book is critical of conditions in low pay jobs in the UK.
She also contributed an introduction to the UK edition of Ehrenreich's, "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America".
Views on religion
An atheist, Toynbee is an Honorary Associate of the
National Secular Society, a supporter of the Humanist Society of Scotlandand was appointed President of the British Humanist Associationin July 2007.
In 2004 the
Islamic Human Rights Commissionawarded Toynbee the 'Most Islamophobic Media Personality' title in the Annual Islamophobia Awards [cite web|url= http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=1124|title= Winners of Islamophobia Awards 2004 announced|accessdate= 2008-04-21|date= 2004-06-26|publisher= Islamic Human Rights Commission] - a claim she strongly contested. She pointed out she is simply a consistent atheist, and is just as critical of Christianityand Judaism. She wrote:
The pens sharpen – Islamophobia! No such thing. Primitive Middle Eastern religions (and most others) are much the same – Islam, Christianity and Judaism all define themselves through disgust for women's bodies. [ [http://taylorandfrancis.metapress.com/index/T650070664762L7X.pdf Behind the Burka] Women’s History Review, Volume 10, Number 4, 2001]
Toynbee is a polarising figure, attracting both praise and criticism. She recently topped a poll of 100 "opinion makers", carried out by Editorial Intelligence.Fact|date=July 2007 She was also named the most influential columnist in the UK.Fact|date=July 2007
Richard Littlejohnof the " Daily Mail" has called Toynbee the "Guardian's resident madwoman" [cite web|url= http://www.davidrowan.com/2003/01/times-interview-richard-littlejohn.html|title= The Times: Interview - Richard Littlejohn, Sky/The Sun|accessdate= 2008-04-21|last= Rowan|first= David|date= 2003-01-31] and has developed an elaborate sexual-satirical fantasy about her becoming a lap dancer. Boris Johnson, at the time a Conservative MP and journalist, wrote that she, "incarnates all the nannying, high-taxing, high-spending schoolmarminess of Blair's Britain. Polly is the high priestess of our paranoid, mollycoddled, risk-averse, airbagged, booster-seated culture of political correctness and 'elf 'n' safety fascism".cite web|url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6180236.stm|title= Faces of the week|accessdate= 2008-04-21|last= Chaundy|first= Bob|date= 2006-11-24|publisher= BBC News]
Toynbee was the second daughter of the literary critic
Philip Toynbee(by his first wife Anne), granddaughter of the historian Arnold J. Toynbeeand great-great niece of philanthropist and economic historian Arnold Toynbeeafter whom Toynbee Hallin the East Endof Londonis named.
Her boyfriend is David Walker, the social affairs editor of "The Guardian", with whom she has co-authored two books reviewing the successes and failures of New Labour in power.
*"Hard Work: Life in Low-pay Britain" (2003) ISBN 0-7475-6415-9.
*"Lost Children: Story of Adopted Children Searching for Their Mothers" (1985) ISBN 0-09-160440-0.
*"Way We Live Now" (1981) ISBN 0-413-49090-4.
*"Hospital" (1977) ISBN 0-09-131390-2.
*"A Working Life" (1971) ISBN 0-340-14760-1.
*"Leftovers" (1969) ISBN 0-586-02643-6.
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Archive/0,5673,-25,0.html "Guardian" columns by Polly Toynbee]
* [http://www.thirdway.org.uk/past/showpage.asp?page=613 Interview with Polly Toynbee] focussing on religion with Third Way magazine,
22 June 1998
* [http://www.psa.ac.uk/awards2003/toynbee.htm Political Journalist of the Year 2003 citation]
* [http://www.journalisted.com/polly-toynbee Journalisted - Articles by Polly Toynbee]
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