Why Can’t Progressives “Be the Change They Want to See”?

Guido had a bit of a dig at the three-houses-owning, multi-millionairess, anti-poverty campaigner Polly Toynbee last week. She responded that Guido was laying the charge of “Champagne socialist” against her, something which Guido has yet to do. More on the money was this part of her rebuttal:-

“…you say we should be Gandhi-like saints and give everything away before we can advocate being taxed more. The point about tax is that’s it’s collective – it’s an “I will if you will” deal. I see no hypocrisy in any of this – but no doubt you will go on spreading ad hominem empty spite – instead of engaging fairly with the substance of the argument.”

Engaging with the substance of her argument, Guido asks, why is progress towards her social democratic utopia an “I will if you will” deal? If it is conditional on reciprocation from the likes of Guido it will never happen. Millions of us already feel over-taxed, like her employers we’re going to hold on to every tax break and tax haven we can come hell or Edward Balls. If she thinks she is under-taxed she can do something about it tomorrow, pay the Treasury more, they really do accept donations to bring down the deficit. Polly could give her own self-defined “unjust rewards” – for that is how she describes her own income – to charity and live more like the common people. Instead she chooses to keep the rewards that put her in the top 1% of income earners.

The home in London worth a million-and-a-half, the house in the country, the villa in Italy, the sheer inequality of it all must play on the conscience of a progressive social democrat. Her get out for keeping all is that she won’t make the sacrifice unless the likes of the greedy and privileged bankers in the neighbouring villas do so as well. Do you see the flaw in this aspiration?

Polly’s excuse for educating her children in private schools is that the state schools were crap at the time. The exact same reason the Fawkes girls go to schools whose existence Polly Toynbee now campaigns against. Another case of “do as I say, not as I do”.  

Meanwhile the next generation of progressives is lining up to be no less hypocritical than the last. Will Straw commends Tory MPs Matthew Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi who in their new book Masters of Nothing argue that the banking crisis was partly due to a lack of women in trading rooms. Too much testosterone contributed to the debt crisis apparently, well that and a lack of pay transparency among other things.

ipprWill is a wonk at the IPPR, the key policy and propaganda think-tank of the progressive soft left. So how does IPPR do on the gender equality and pay transparency front? Guido asked Will, IPPR’s associate director, how much he earns he refused to say or even give an average for associate directors at the IPPR. Pay transparency is only for bankers, not policy makers it seems. 

On gender equality the IPPR has 9 male serving directors out of 12 at the top. At the bottom 7 out of 8 operations staff are female. Another progressive case of “do as I say, not as I do”.  

On the Farm: David Miliband & Alistair Darling

We learn from Alistair Darling’s memoirs that immediately after James Purnell resigned Gordon Brown reluctantly gave up on replacing him with Ed Balls. The course of history would have been very different if the kamikaze economic duo had got total control of the economy in 2009. The Prime Mentalist and Banzaii Balls would have pushed us into Greek territory…

The other counter-factual piece of history concerns the subsequent secret meeting on the farm between David Miliband and Alistair Darling. If David Miliband had the courage to tell Darling that they should oust Brown, history might be very different. They could have forced Brown out, changed economic course and lured the LibDems into a post-election coalition. The Rose Garden could have been the scene of a Miliband-Clegg romance. Miliband lacked the cojones to take the gamble, unlike his younger brother.

One question remains for Guido. Who owned the Essex farm that was the scene of their meeting? Who did they both trust enough not to reveal their dangerous liason? Essex farms don’t come cheap…

UPDATE: Guido’s Essex boy reckons that the “friend’s farm” at which Darling met Miliband probably belonged to Catherine MacLeod, his spin-mistress.

Alistair Darling on the Brownies…

“It would be wrong to claim that there was a plot to get rid of Tony Blair; there was no plot. A plot is secret. This was an open campaign, and as far as the Brownite cabal were concerned, you were with them or against them. It was a fairly brutal regime, and many of us fell foul of it.”



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