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31 October 2018

Watch: Polly Toynbee demolishes George Osborne’s defence of austerity

The Guardian columnist railed against the former chancellor’s “despicable” treatment of the poor.

By Media Mole

Brexit has done funny things to the political spectrum. Or so Evan Davis thinks. Signing off on his four-year stint at Newsnight last night, the BBC presenter made a big mistake: suggesting that the vote to Leave meant that George “Slasher” Osborne and Guardianista Polly Toynbee were now ideological bosom buddies.

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Given that Toynbee was flanked by Novara Media‘s Ash Sarkar and once and future failed Ukip leadership candidate Suzanne Evans, perhaps it wasn’t the craziest conclusion to draw. But Toynbee – whose published works on from the Cameron years include such misty-eyed tributes to Osborne’s economic policy Dogma and Disarray and Cameron’s Coup: How The Tories Took Britain To The Brink – did not take kindly to having her politics compared to those of the former chancellor, who had just offered a lengthy defence of austerity and welfare cuts.

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“I’m happy to look at mistakes we made, Osborne said, oh-so-magnanimously. “But overall, faced with a massive financial crash and a set of very difficult decisions in a hung parliament, I think David Cameron, myself, Nick Clegg and others worked hard in what we felt to be the national interest to put things right in as fair a way as possible. And ultimately the country grew, jobs were created, and it avoided the calamitous situation that quite a lot of European countries found themselves in.”

He added: “I took the judgment that if you were going to deal with the fact the country was spending too much, it would be a bit odd to leave out the very large chunk the government was spending on welfare.”

Toynbee wasted no time in taking a sledgehammer to the case for the defence. “This man has done such harm to this country,“ she replied, directing her index finger and death stare in the direction of Osborne’s smirking face. “Your treatment of the poorest in this country has been despicable.”

“I would want to be in no way associated…the idea that he’s a centrist! You can talk about gay marriage, there’s no way that you would have done gay marriage had Labour hadn’t already done civil partnerships.”

1-0 Toynbee.