Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Go away Polly: Response to comments

My post on Polly Toynbee's Guardian column has attracted an interesting comment from Paul Leake which I thought deserved a response on the main site.

People who aren't members are entitled to a view, and those who as members are entitled to more than a view (ie. a vote) would do well to consider opinion outside the party, even if ultimately rejecting it - at least if you want the Lib Dems to be successful. Of course you can still disagree with her conclusions :)

Non-member supporters are entitled to a view, as are potential supporters. The members would do well to take their views seriously when we cast our votes. Analysts and commentators are entitled to offer advice, although as voting members we should take the advice of people who don't share our values with a pinch of salt. Supporters of other parties can (and should) take views on what the possible result of the leadership election means for them, something that should be only marginally relevant to us.

That isn't what Toynbee is doing. Her thesis is that a Hughes victory is a good thing for left-wing Labour supporters such as herself because a Hughes-led Lib Dem party will put pressure on Labour from the economic left and force Brown to move further left than he otherwise would when he becomes leader. But she phrases the article as advice to Liberal Democrats. Our political aims are not the same as those of left-wing Brownites (if they were, we would be left-wing Brownites and not Liberal Democrats) and we should not be choosing our leader with the interests of left-wing Brownites in mind.

Since her advice is based on the assumption that we want something which we don't, we should know better than to follow it. She should know better than to offer it too. An article about how a Hughes leadership victory would be a boost for the Brownite left of the Labour party is a useful contribution to the political debate in the UK, but to phrase it as advice to Liberal Democrat members is just rude.

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  • At 4:44 pm , Blogger Paul Leake said...

    I stand corrected :)

  • At 4:45 pm , Blogger James said...

    I agree, and was planning to say much the same on my blog.

  • At 5:04 pm , Blogger Tristan said...


    Interestingly I've just found out Toynbee was an SDP candidate at one point.
    I think she's disappointed the LibDems turned out to be a Liberal rather than Socialist party...

  • At 8:24 pm , Anonymous Richard Fairhurst said...

    What the hell's a "left-wing Brownite"? I wasn't aware madly PFIing everything in sight was a left-wing policy...

  • At 1:19 am , Blogger LibertyCat said...

    Polly Toynbee is left-wing (or at least well to the left of all three major party leaderships) and supports Brown for the Labour leadership. That makes her a left-wing Brownite.

  • At 12:15 am , Blogger Angus J Huck said...

    Polly Toynbee stood for the SDP/Liberal Alliance in Lewisham East at the 1983 General Election and got something like 22%. In the 1982 Borough elections, she stood in Clapham Park, Lambeth, and was furious that she had to have the name "Mary Jenkins" on the ballot-paper.

    What I cannot understand is why Toynbee, a feminist, was such a dedicated supporter of Dr David Owen, whose patronising and bullying of women was legendary. So was Sue Slipman, another feminist (and former Communist). The appeal of Owen is something I have never been able to fathom.

    Some of the early SDP women are still with us. Julia Neuberger, Lindsay Granshaw Northover, Margaret Sharp. And Celia Goodhart, of course.

    PS: One of the real classics of Janus-faced politics was a speech Sue Slipman made to NUS Conference in which she claimed to be both a Zionist and a supporter of the PLO in the course of a single paragraph.


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