Polly Toynbee

From Academic Kids

Polly Toynbee (born Mary Louisa Toynbee on December 27 1946) is a journalist and writer in the United Kingdom, and has been a columnist for The Guardian newspaper since 1998. Her columns are often controversial; while she generally supports New Labour, she has also made pointed criticisms of the Blair government. Her work has often caused sharp reaction.



She was born on the Isle of Wight. After attending the Holland Park Comprehensive School (she had failed the Eleven Plus examination) she read history at St Anne's College, Oxford, but dropped out before completing her degree. She then went into journalism, working for many years at The Guardian before joining the BBC where she was social affairs editor (1988-1995). At The Independent, which she joined after leaving the BBC, she was a columnist and associate editor, working with then editor Andrew Marr. After Marr's principal spell as Independent editor she rejoined The Guardian. She has also written for The Observer and the Radio Times; at one time she edited the Washington Monthly USA. Currently Toynbee serves as President of the Social Policy Association.

Toynbee was the second daughter of the literary critic Philip Toynbee (by his first wife Anne), and so granddaughter of the historian Arnold J. Toynbee and thus great-great niece of philanthropst and economic historian Arnold Toynbee who founded Toynbee Hall in the east end of London. Through her paternal grandmother Rosalind Toynbee, eldest daughter of the classicist Gilbert Murray, she is a descendant of the 9th Earl of Carlisle. She thus has a distinguished academic and aristocratic descent, as follows:

9th Earl of Carlisle → Lady Mary Murray md Gilbert A. Murray, Regius Professor of Classics → Rosalind Murray md (div) Arnold J. Toynbee, historian → Philip Toynbee, literary critic → Polly Toynbee, journalist

Toynbee's comments on this background are extremely rare.

Polly Toynbee was married to the late Peter Jenkins, also a journalist. She now lives with the journalist David Walker, with whom she has collaborated on books reviewing the successes and failures of New Labour in power.

In 2005, she was made an Honorary Doctor of The Open University for her notable contribution to the educational and cultural well-being of society.

Hard Work: Life in Low-Pay Britain

In 2003, she published the book Hard Work: Life in Low-Pay Britain about an experimental period voluntarily living on the minimum wage, which was 4.10 per hour at the time. She worked as a hospital porter in an NHS hospital, a dinner lady in a primary school, a nursery assistant, a call-centre employee, a cake factory worker and a care home assistant. She was influenced by the American writer Barbara Ehrenreich who made Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America about Ehrenreich's field-work in low-pay America, contributing an introduction to the British edition. Toynbee expressed strong disapproval of the level of the minimum wage, which she argued should be increased considerably, and also raised concerns about terms and conditions issues such as holiday pay and working hours. The book was received positively by some left-wing critics, but was savaged by some right-wing critics, who considered that it combined self-absorption with a poor grasp of the underlying issues.

Accusations of Islamophobia

In 2003, she was nominated as "Most Islamophobic Journalist of the Year" by the Islamic Human Rights Commission for her criticisms of Islamic culture, but lost to the right-wing journalist (and former Guardian colleague) Melanie Phillips.

Partial bibliography

External links


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