Polly Toynbee

Journalist, Author and Broadcaster, primarily writing for the Guardian. Former Social Affairs Editor for the BBC.

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Polly Toynbee

Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist and broadcaster and was formerly the BBC's Social Affairs Editor. Winner of two National PressAwards, and What The Papers Say columnist of the year, she was awarded the George Orwell prize and has been labelled the most influential columnist in the country.

After dropping out of her degree at Oxford, Polly worked in a factory and used this period, as well as time working ‘undercover’ as a nurse and an Army recruit, as the basis of her first book, A Working Life. She started work at The Observer, before moving to The Guardian and then to the BBC as Social Affairs Editor.

Polly returned to her undercover research for her book Hard Work: Life in Low-Pay Britain over 30 years after A Working Life was published. She took up the challenge of living in one of the most neglected council estates in Britain and taking whatever minimum-wage jobs were on offer at the job centre. In telesales and cake factories, as a hospital porter or a dinner-lady, she worked at a breakneck pace for cut-rate wages, alongside working mothers and struggling retirees. The experience has informed a great deal of her criticism of government, policy and business.

Renowned for her often outspoken left-leaning, social democratic stance, Polly is loved and disliked in equal measures by Britain’s political and commentating classes. Seen by some as the epitome of left-wing, political correctness, Polly regularly inspires both praise and opprobrium, although her columns and broadcasting never shirk from criticising all the major parties. She has written a large selection of books on subjects from social mobility to the NHS, adoption, inequality, and analyses of Labour and Tory governments and austerity. Her latest book is ‘Uneasy Inheritance: my family and other radicals’, a part humorous family memoir and part social history.