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!