Polly Gives Tories Good Soundbite

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: Greg Clark, a Cameroonie wonk and party policy guru says “Polly Toynbee is a serious thinker about social policy.” Is he moving into the realms of satire here? Polly is considered by many Blairites to be a deranged 1970s-era leftie. Are the Cameroonies now lauding her high-taxing all-pervading-state vision as a serious policy option? Really?
Clark writes: “The traditional Conservative vision of welfare as a safety net encompasses another outdated Tory nostrum – that poverty is absolute, not relative. Churchill’s safety net is at the bottom: holding people at subsistence level, just above the abyss of hunger and homelessness. It is the social commentator Polly Toynbee who supplies imagery that is more appropriate for Conservative social policy in the twenty first century.”

The Polly Toynbee line is a deliberate headline grab – based on one borrowed metaphor. Clark argues that the desired image for Conservative policy is provided by Polly’s picture of society “as a caravan crossing the desert… If those furthest back fall too far behind, they cease to be part of the whole… Similarly, if the poorest people in this country fall too far behind those further up the income scale our society will pull apart.”

Tellingly the conclusion quotes Adam Smith, the father of free market ideology, not Polly the mother of social democracy. Quoting Polly approvingly reinforces the “Tories have changed” meme – which is their core message. The paper is published tomorrow.

UPDATE: At PMQs today a Labour backbencher fell for the triangulation ruse. Ironically Blair was cautious about endorsing Polly when asked should the Tories take her advice.




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