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Guardian sanitised McCluskey’s withering response to ‘snob’ Toynbee. Here’s what it took out

Unite head’s full response to Guardian columnist’s filtered by newspaper – but reproduced below

As voters went to the polls in the Peterborough by-election last week, the Guardian published an article by columnist Polly Toynbee claiming that the popularity of the Brexit party meant Labour must go full-remain.

As part of her attempt to square that circle, Toynbee turned her fire on what she described as,

the Corbyn/Len McCluskey stand aligning with the right, clinging to an imaginary ideal of the perfect Labour voter as “old, white, male, with a regional accent”

This sparked a withering response from Unite general secretary McCluskey – but while the Guardian published part of his letter, it edited out the real meat of his critique. The letter is reproduced below, with the sections removed by the Guardian highlighted in bold:

Dear editor

Polly Toynbee cannot help caricaturing herself as the metropolitan snob whose disregard for life outside north London still leaves her, three years on, struggling to understand the 2016 referendum result

That is her affair. But she has no business caricaturing me as representing the “old, white male with a regional accent”, apparently a key figure in her demonology.

I would remind her of the tremendous diversity of the union I lead, and that it is those members that I speak for. I don’t need to make awayday trips to the “north” to find out what working people are thinking, why so many voted “leave” in 2016 and why, whatever their views on Brexit, they are cautious about a second referendum.

The Peterborough by-election result did not pan out as Ms Toynbee clearly anticipated. The result vindicates Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Brexit, seeking to unite the country, leave or remain, so that we can get on with the urgent job of fixing the ills dividing us.

I would urge her to reflect on this misjudgement, and on her serial misunderstandings of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Reflect, too, that every time she writes she alienates more ordinary people from the “remain” cause she champions.

Yours sincerely

Len McCluskey
General Secretary
Unite the union


McCluskey’s withering description of Toynbee as a self-caricaturing ‘metropolitan snob’ – and of her history of regularly misjudging Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour movement and its appeal to voters deserves proper airing to balance the record.

But it typifies an entire journalistic and political group, not just one columnist.

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  1. She was, of course, an SDP candidate when they split from Labour.

    She spends much of her time in a villa in Tuscany, and has as much in common with the average Brit as Marie Antoinette.

    She has been serially wrong about British politics since failing to get elected for the SDP (although she did split the left vote enough for the tories to gain the seat, which one gets the impression she was very pleased about really).

    She epitomizes ‘centrism’, she wants to pretend she cares, as long as nothing happens to change the wonderful world she lives in. She has prospered from the policies she pretends to decry, and wants to keep on doing so.

    As with most guardian commentariat, throw in a dose of mysandry, and you have some very nasty incompetents talking balls about the politics of a country they barely even know.

    1. Yep, indeed, MAB, the self-deluding, utterly cronyism and family connections-riddled, mainly privately educated, mainly London-based, mass media’s ultra privileged “chattering class” of journalists – whose entire cocaine-snorting social purpose is purely to pump out lies to reinforce the current capitalist status quo and denigrate and smear anyone or any organisation threatening what , for them and their Big Capitalist puppetmasters, is a very comfy status quo indeed.

      Behind their much vaunted “social liberalism” and “internationalism ” (ie, easy access to their French gites and the ski slopes , and cheap polish nannies and plumbers and Uber taxis), lurks, very near to the surface, a vicious fear of the working class, and even any minor threat to their privileges. They would, almost to a man or woman, support a military coup, or fascist demagogue in an instant if a Left government came to power and actually took steps to end the tax dodges and cronyist access for them and their kids to all the best paid jobs.

    2. There is hardly any difference between your bold and non-bold text as I read Skwawk. I had look really hard to distinguish between them.

      It looks clear enough in Chrome though.

      I am using latest version of Firefox on a Galaxy S7, Android 8.0.

    3. Bravo, MAB!

      Her columns are now a miserablist, self-absorbed cliche; her alleged journalism a fucking joke.

      The Guardian today in a nutshell.

  2. McCluskey is promoting a Union view which is at odds with the LP members’ view, and don’t forget, he was one of those who helped to torpedo open selection. On top of that he also recommended adoption of the IHRA definition which has been a disaster.

    McCluskey advice… What’s it worth?

    1. McCluskey also openly attacked Chris Williamson, one of the few genuine Socialist MPs in the PLP.

  3. Speaking as a 70 year old; white; male who voted leave, I appear to fulfil her stereotype. Furthermore I speak with an accent; I am a catholic hetereosexual & I support a football team that isn’t London based nor plays in the Premier League. I am everything that ‘progressives’ in the BBC & the Guardian hate, & most of all I despise the elitism of the bourgeoisie that she represents #MeMe. The ‘System’ caters for her very well & the last thing she could accept is the ‘class struggle’, as for her the only reality is in ‘identity politics’. For her Socialism is Blairite.

    1. “I despise the elitism of the bourgeoisie”

      Forgive me if I mistake, Steve, but I thought, from what you’ve said your also a member of that moveable feast, the ‘bourgeoisie’?? – as well as being a white male.

      … which might make the overarching point that class/race/gender etc. generalizations are crap, whoever they’re made by (remember – McCluskey is definately one of the ‘elite’ – just like Corbyn).

      Generalizations make it difficult to deal with the uncomfortable factsof reality – such as the strong predeliction of the many working class individuals for Tory policies – without getting into middle class patronising conceptions like ‘fase conciousness’ (a term coined by the middle class economist, Karl Marx).

      1. I beg to differ… surprise. I spent a year of my mis-spent youth studying A Level Sociology, during which time debate & argument failed to provide a definition from any text book that I could accept, however there were guidelines I could agree with, but many I could not. One problem definition was that as soon as you are educated to a certain level, you are no longer proletariat & therefore you have evolved or progressed to become bourgeois, therefore the working classes are by definition without education or stupid.
        Marx’s definition (Karl) was more simplistic & evolved to refer to capital owning or managers of the means of production, or anybody not proletariat. Originally with reference to craftsmen & merchants, they were the affluent & opulent class with materialistic values; those who sought to climb the social ladder. A process of evolution? Afraid not.
        Where I was born; my values; my employment & my lifestyle are better indicators of my social class – I am not a stereotype. I was a single father for some considerable time & that, along with my ‘Oppositional Defiant Disoder (ODD) attitude towards the establishment system ensured that I never progressed into positions of management. I do not fit neatly into any neat pigeon hole, but I tick more boxes outside the box labelled bourgeois. I have little in common with Toynbee, not her values nor a holiday home in Tuscany.

      2. “I am not a stereotype … I do not fit neatly into any neat pigeon hole”

        Of course you’re not, Steve.

        That is actually the issue behind my attack on simplistic use of undefined class typifications for purposes that they weren’t designed for. It’s bad sociology; its bad psychology; its bad economics – and its bloody awful politics.

        As I’ve often said – there’s no more innate virtue in being ‘working class’ (however defined – the first hurdle) than there is in being educated at Eton and inhabiting the cabinet. Both are simply social facts, even if the first is more nebulous than the second.

    2. I am, hilariously tinged,leave, hetero, Millwall supporter. I came to Yorks for a w/end. I have stayed for twenty years. Can’t get t’North accent though. Have I missed out anything that she hates. Answers on postcard please. Regards. Oh yes I am married.

  4. I’m not enamoured of Toynbee, either – even when she’s right.

    But I thought that McCluskey – who I’ve probably agreed with more – was petulant rather than ‘withering’. His electoral base isn’t exactly overwhelming, to be honest as a basis for high-horse preaching.

    Sorry – that’s my Marxism talking. 🙂

    1. Groucho, not Karl, Troll prat. Where have you been all morning , RH ? At the dentists ? Getting a telling off from Mandelson for being so useless ?

      1. Calm down, dear. It’s not good for the blood pressure.

        … but, at least you recognised the greatest Marx.

        … even if you’ve once again fallen into the idiot trap of using the word ‘troll’ and thereby stamping ‘KIck Me’ on your own back.

      2. A troll is a troll: if anything needs kicking, it’s the troll. Though, frankly, I wouldn’t soil my shoe.

    2. …….therefore all generalisations are wrong; there are no valid empirical facts; patterns of group behaviour are misleading & humanities, especially Sociology muddies the water……..I tend to agree. There is no such thing as the Science of Society.

  5. ‘Remain’ is the cause of the well-to-do, which is why their March Against Democracy resembled a queue in Waitrose.

    Buoyed up by the persistent and insidious snobbery of the Thatcher and Blair eras, too many of the sharp-elbowed, well-heeled prosperous upper-middle class have no qualms about clamouring noisily for their class interests, even if that means demonising working class people and treating with contempt the biggest democratic vote in British history. It is not a matter of just one columnist as Skwarkie says…

    When the democratic socialists get into office WE should fight as hard for OUR class.

    1. “‘Remain’ is the cause of the well-to-do”

      The chant of the intellectally lacking.

      Wrong dimensions – it’s the cause mostly of the aged and ill-educated with conservative views living mainly in the south.

      The working class Labour supporters (who were probably minority ‘well-to-do’), on the other hand, were majority ‘Remain’ supporters)

      Sorry that you are so out of touch with the class whose views you claim to represent – but that’s what we call the ‘middle class pseudo-left fallacy’.

  6. Basic stuff, when you accept there is no such thing as Free markets or a Free Press, never has been,
    At moment we have socialism for the 5%,
    hate to remind everyone Twas Brown and Obama who saved the banks, contrast that with response to British steel
    As for MSM and toilet papers, bring in proper regulation and sanctions,

  7. I suppose journalists naturally associate with other journalists, as politicians do with other politicians – the same as in most professions.
    Hardly surprising really that most are reluctant to stray too far from group norms and the safe vapidity of the corporate herd – what disappoints is the number of dumb fucks who think the mediocrities who sacrificed journalistic integrity for a pat on the head from the 1% are the most worthy of admiration and emulation.

  8. I’m interested at the ire directed at Toynbee, who – whatever her faults – in another article has Johnson absolutely bang to rights :

    … whilst the focus here is to support bletherings much more in line with Johnson’s Brexit fabrications – just like Mc Cluskey’s meanderings on this core subject.

    The terms ‘sense of proportion’ and ‘reality’ come to mind.

    1. Why differentiate among tories? They’re all shite. When tories tell us who should lead the Labour party, I laugh; they know bugger all, and their vote doesn’t count. Why give them a laugh by arguing which tax-dodging liar is the best to lead the tories and destroy the NHS?
      Silly to ask RH, I know. Don’t encourages the troll. Sorry.

  9. Yes they hate it that they as middle class liberals have NOTHING to say and that us diverse working class socialists have a better analysis then theirs!
    We also have a pocket full of left wing democtratic socialist ideas for the 21stC.
    To Polly et al: ‘Last throes great men and women.’

  10. Ooooooh but Len’s response was a bit long. I sent a letter to them once which read….
    ” Polly Toynbee is the greatest nitwit that I have ever had the misfortune to come across”
    and owing to space they had to edit it down to;
    “Polly Toynbee is the greatest wit that I have ever had the fortune to come across”.
    Not really but guaranteed that’s what the sad beggars will say.

  11. Does anyone of the Left (or indeed anywhere else?) take Toynbee seriously anymore?
    I suppose there must be a small clique in ever-sunny Islington who think the sun shines out of her arse. But even in Islington – and I lived there for 20 years – her elitist garbage was unrepresentative of anyone I ever met there.
    I was never a fan; she always came across as a fair weather social democrat to me, even when she spouted the ‘correct’ ideas, back in the 90s.
    To be fair, she may have changed in the 10 years or more since I last read her drivel, but I seriously doubt it. If it wasn’t for her name, she’d probably never have risen above the School Magazine.
    I blame the Independent (wasn’t it them?) for launching her on a waiting world. She is the the epitome of the bubble-dweller. And it’s a shrinking bubble.
    I sometimes wonder how the Grauniad sells a single copy.

    1. “I sometimes wonder how the Grauniad sells a single copy”.

      Take a bow, cartoon genius Steve Bell!

      1. I do love Steve Bell – but even that doesn’t make me shell out to the wittering classes!

    2. “I sometimes wonder how the Grauniad sells a single copy.”

      Funny. I get exercised much more by the exclusively Tory brain-deadening propaganda sheets like the Mail. Express and Telegraph etc.that I see going through the checkout in significant numbers.

      Sense of proportion?

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