Polly Toynbee and David Walker

In the lavish surroundings of the Assembly Rooms, Guardian journalists Polly Toynbee and David Walker dive straight in at the deep end. This event, part of the sparkling line up of the Speakers with Attitude series, introduced a new book by Walker and Toynbee posing the opinion that David Cameron and his cohorts have staged an anti-state coup. ‘The big society was a lie’ asserts Toynbee.

The combination of economic and social nuggets make for a convincing argument

The talk is swift and informative, covering large areas of current politics. The combination of economic and social nuggets make for a convincing argument, while the colour – including a description of wilderness festival as ‘poshstock’ – added humour through the facts and figures. The two take turns, almost sentence by sentence, Walker adding more literary turns of phrase while Toynbee provides most of the statistics. As the question mark of Scottish independence hangs over the UK, there is predictably much talk on the topic of devolution and much of the argument is framed by why the Scottish are disillusioned with Cameron.

With an engaged and erudite audience, the question and answer session filled in gaps left in the talk like Trident, alternative futures and the opportunities of the Labour Party. The discussion was lively and topped with the to-the-point question: why aren’t people more outraged?

Toynbee paints a frightening future most of us are probably aware of; the NHS heading for an American system of insurance and extra fees and the complete eradication of benefits. Toynbee and Walker aren’t naïve and admit to the history of Thatcher and the subsequent Labour government setting the anti-welfare state cogs in motion, but in the ‘radicalism’ of Cameron’s anti-state actions they suggest we have seen nothing like this in many years with even ‘English heritage being privatised’; the conservatives are not even living up to their name.

Nonetheless, Toynbee remains positive. She hopes at the end, with the widespread popular mistrust of the coalition among other things, that ‘they haven’t won yet’. Polly Toynbee and David Walker’s book will be on the shelves in January.

Reviews by Amber Segal

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