Toynbee: the great comic figure of our age

Journalist Polly Toynbee is in no position to criticise rich hypocrites, says Lewis Jones

None of us," boomed Polly Toynbee the other day, in her now famous attack on the super-rich, "like to feel guilty about our comfortable lives." Like much of what she writes, this is not altogether true. It probably is true of many of the super-rich, but as the Guardian's leading columnist - as the living embodiment, indeed, of the Guardianista spirit, of whom even that paper's editor is said to be terrified - Toynbee knows perfectly well that her painfully liberal readers like nothing better than to feel guilty about their comfortable lives.

One suspects that what she really means by "None of us" - which is properly a singular, by the way - is "I". Thanks to her guilt-inducing journalism and books, she is herself comparatively rich and comfortable, with a house in Clapham and a villa in Italy. And, as a daughter of Philip Toynbee and granddaughter of Arnold, she is also quite posh. But - unless one takes a psychoanalytic approach, and views her entire oeuvre as an act of expiation - she stoutly refuses to feel guilty about it.

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