Posted by: secretperson | December 12, 2008

Toynbee Wants Dictatorship

Oh dear. New Labour cheerleader Polly Toynbee has let the cat out of the bag in an article calling for big government, when she mentions in a passing aside that dictatorship might be necessary.

Now Polly pushing for big government is no surprise, it is a constant theme to her pieces, and her answer to everything. It is matched only by her dodgy grasp of statistics and her fickle and ever changing devotion to her current hero, who will save the Labour party and bring it back to its big government roots. I believe Miliband is out and Gordon is back in at the moment.

Now in this paragraph, she dismisses civil libertarians as “conspiracy theorists”:

Meanwhile a second anti-state battleground had opened up, as libertarians of right and left attacked the government for Big Brother-like interference with the privacy and freedoms of the citizen. Labour’s plans to introduce identity cards, to allow police to hold terrorist suspects without trial for 42 days and the widespread use of CCTV cameras in public places were seen by conspiracy theorists as sinister encroachments on ancient civil liberties.

The first anti-state battleground was simply politicians who thought the state should do less, now there are those paranoid old libertarians who think giving the state too much power is a danger. We all know in Polly’s eyes the state can do no wrong.

I tell you what though. Our libertarian paranoia (and that of climate sceptics) may be fuelled by sentences like:

But other pressing global issues demand big government answers – above all, climate change, where every country needs to control its carbon emissions. That demands ever-tighter state control of business and private citizens’ behaviour.

That’s right. Ever tighter state control of private citizens’ behaviour. But worse is to follow:

No-one dares admit it yet, but the big question is whether democracies are strong enough to impose the kind of emissions controls necessary to save the planet.

Well you have dared to admit it Polly (I though Flash Gordon had already saved the planet though)! We may have suspected this attitude from you for many a year, but now we have it in writing. I would consider dictatorship a “sinister encroachment on ancient civil liberties” and not feel paranoid at all.

This attitude of Ms Toynbee’s is a dangerous one. The idea of democracies “imposing” is bad enough, but once you take the next step to requiring dictatorship it really takes a big turn for the worse.

We know dictatorship is required, so the most important thing becomes preserving the dictatorship. Any benefits of dictatorship become lost in self-preservation. Power corrupts. This is a similar attitude to one Polly would despise, that which led Gordon and Tony to outwardly adopt Tory economic policy. Gordon believes Labour was necessary not to let in the ‘evil Tories’, even if it meant copying said evil Tories’ policies. Retaining power became all.

The effect of a long time in power, even within our democratic system (imperfections excepted) can be seen in this Labour Home article suggesting the Tories may be guilty of treason for questioning the Great Leader. Labour was doing “what was necessary”, the questioning of this undoubtably right thing was therefore supporting the wrong thing, which would be bad for the country, and therefore treason. It is not hard to see this logic continued to dictatorship.

For how long would Polly’s all powerful interfering world government (for surely to tackle climate change it must be global) act only in the name of good and equality and low carbon? Not long I think. How many libertarians or Tories would be hanged, how many people starved as food went to waste unable to be transported for fear of carbon, all in the name of a greater good? How long before Polly decides the benign dictatorship should be benign in a different direction, then finds herself disappeared in the night? This is the path absolute power leads us down.

I believe there should be limits on how much a government, even a democratically elected one, can impose upon an individual. Weight of numbers does not always mean weight of moral justification. A democrat who believes in majoritarianism or an elected dictatorship can at least be argued with or voted against, we have some handle on the power of the state, however dangerous we may find it.

But when that into dictatorship is passed, when the ends justifies the means and sacrifices to everyone’s freedom must be made to do what is necessary, then we should worry. Polly doesn’t fear the big state, as she believes it will be ever benign and a leap to an omniscient, omnipotent and good dictatorship is a small leap for her mind. But to me it is a big hurdle, an event horizon that once passed will take centuries of pain, struggle and death to overcome.

Think much harder, be less trusting, Polly, before you wish for the strong guiding hand of a kind dictator to save you. There is no such thing.


  1. How can that silly woman be taken seriously.

    I think it is time some one took her to the funny farm.

    Dictatorships are never the answer.

  2. I’m not sure you’d call this system of government democratic. I mean, where’s the vote on Lisbon? What’s all this about Mandelson conspiring to push us into the Euro? How come we’re fighting these unpopular wars? Whose idea was it to bailout the banks and give us the bill?

    The problem for our ruling class is that no one party is able to command overwhelming support – not even in our FPTP voting system. The next general election will result in a minority Labour or minority Tory government, either way a programme of massive retrenchment without a strong governing party. See Canada (suspended parliament) or Greece (civil unrest) for guides to where we could be headed…

  3. Well you are right Charlie, we are not a perfect democracy. Our system keeps at least some checks on our politicians though, if only in areas where Labour and the Tories disagree. Certainly better than Polly Toynbee’s idea.

  4. Now in this paragraph, she dismisses civil libertarians as “conspiracy theorists”:

    She’s a dangerous person whom many seem to heed, for some reason.

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