Tories Look To Toynbee

Polly Toynbee is the Guardian's Social Affairs commentator. This means she reports and comments on that most left-wing of topics - social affairs - for that most liberal of papers, the Guardian. Extraordinary, then, to hear the Tories' policy chief, Greg Barker, hail her as a model for Tory thought. Ms. Toynbee has for long been the bugbear of bugbears for Tories - a left-wing harpie of the worst kind. Now they're asked to love her and embrace her ideas. What on earth is going on?

You can read the BBC story here, but in essence this is yet another move by the refashioned Tory Party to rediscover its One Nation credentials, and that is always a dramatic shock when it has spent so long hunkering down in right-wing fantasy land. Disraeli was doubtless no less shocking to many Tory contemporaries when he advocated a dramatic extension of the franchise, and radical social measures, to ultimate electoral advantage. Or Macmillan, embracing the consensus of the welfare state and becoming one of post-war Britain's most popular Prime Ministers. Cameron seems to know exactly what he's doing, and who'd have thought Norman Lamont's undistinguished adviser would have been the man to have challenged the Tories' most cherished shibboleths?

Talking of Tory shibboleths, I did hear his education spokesman tear up pretty well every pet Tory idea on education the other night, including a robust rejection of any widespread return to selective education, and the rubbishing of a favourite neo-liberal idea, education vouchers. There are more surprises yet for the Tory Party I think!


Anonymous said…
I cannot stand that woman. She makes me want to burn things.
Aftab said…
What has got into Camron? He wants to send out this image of ravamping the Torrie Party in order to 'appeal to the electorate' etc etc (example= "vote blue go green"), but now he's just taking the piss. Are we supposed to believe that this left-wing woman is the symbol of Torrie thought? Bollocks. It seems to me that Camron is taking ideas that work well e.g. being somewhat left-wing and tries to adopt them as some sort of a excuse of a party. Labour are going to win the next election if Camron keeps churning crap like this out.
C H Daly said…
This is going to be tough for me so I’ll make it quick.

The media are slightly building up this story to more than it is worth. In fact, The Conservatives shouldn’t even really be coming under a lot of criticism from this story that they have been. If it is possible to type through gritted teeth then I have just done it!

The actual passage comes from a leaked Tory report (that I’m not even sure ever reached Cameron). It comes from a fairly anonymous safe-seat Tory MP who, in an extremely long and tedious social reform report, makes an off-hand comment about how the Conservative Party should be looking to people like Toynbee rather than Churchill to make any political progression. At no stage did the MP in question suggest that Toynbee should be signed to the Party or propose any other similar offer. It was a throwaway remark using hyperbole to show how the Party needed to change.

However, it is fairly naïve for the MP in question to not realise that Toynbee, being a smarmy, intelligent Liberal would jump at the chance of a story inferring that the Conservatives were coming round to her way of thinking.

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