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Sunday, 5 August 2012

Polly Toynbee's disreputable writings #762

Polly always sees red: Toynbee's rewriting of history

Polly Toynbee's historical revisionism is a spectacle at the best of times. Her views on Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony are something else

Written by Andrew Gibson.
This article appeared in the Commentator on 2 August 2012

If Simon Heffer asserted that the Tories established the NHS, or Trevor Kavanagh congratulated the Conservative Party for having legislated into effect the statutory minimum wage, you would certainly read some consequent sneering commentary in the diaries of the Guardian or the Independent.

So how should readers of The Commentator – who are naturally polite people – react to Polly Toynbee’s recent historical revisionism in The Guardian?

On the occasion of the Olympics opening ceremony Toynbee types:

“Thanks, Danny Boyle, …thanks for the story of the struggle of the powerless against the forces of conservatism. Suffragettes, Jarrow marchers, CND, punk or hip hop, all these were fiercely resisted by the right, so often proved pleasingly wrong in the end. All our happy endings tell of forces of repression falling under the wheels of people pushing for democracy and a fair share of power and wealth.

Boyle gave us a tear-jerkingly optimistic sense of the inevitability of progress. Here was social history as taught to my generation and Danny Boyle's, where we learned how – from Factory Act to Tolpuddle martyrs, from Chartists and Reform Act to the Butler Education Act – power was gradually wrenched from a small elite.”

If this really is what Polly was “taught” then the Toynbee family should ask for their money back.

In Toynbee’s Manichean universe, the Whig view of history updated, good guys wearing red rosettes battle the “forces of repression” in a series of battles in which the left always wins and is ultimately proven correct.

It is fantasy.

Look at the examples given by Toynbee.

Reforming the Victorian workplace was a process rather than a single act. It was not a simple left versus right struggle. But the person most associated with that tale of improvement is surely Lord Shaftsbury: a Compassionate Conservative, a Christian rightist – all that is anathema to Toynbee.

Next, the Chartists. They won four of their six demands. One demand, annual parliaments, will not and should not be granted. That leaves one more demand – constituencies of equal sizes. Can Toynbee bring herself to name the party that currently proposes such a reform?

Then there is the Reform Act. Toynbee is probably referring to the Great Reform Act of 1832. That act established some good principles but was limited in scope. The road to equal, universal adult suffrage stretched essentially to 1928 and was littered with partisan calculation, but the instigators of reform were as likely to be Tories as not.

Wellington eased restrictions on Roman Catholic participation; Disraeli extended the franchise massively in 1867; women achieved equality with men thanks to the Baldwin Government in 1928. Meanwhile, the Conservative Primrose League popularised political participation in the high noon of Victorian Britain, including among women.

My favourite among Toynbee’s list of notable “left-wing” successes is the “Butler Education Act”. Even Toynbee, the Mother Superior of Confirmation Bias, must know that Butler was a Conservative.

Read the rest of the article here.
Ampers says, well worth following the link, and bookmarking the Commentator blog.

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