Polly gave a speech entitled "The art of the column" at the annual Bagehot Lecture organised by Queen Mary College, University of London last week. I missed it, poor me!
So let's start fisking:
"Toynbee said: "If you are going to report on the world of politics, you need to have a strong instinctive sympathy for the political process and the very difficult task politicians face in getting anything done at all. "Even if you lean strongly to the right or the left in your views, you need an underlying respect for the business of politics."
Sensible stuff, so why then do we find her own columns peppered with sniping at the Conservatives and anyone else to the right of centre?
"All this goes to the heart of Tory policy, persuading the electorate that tax money is always wasted, public jobs are pointless."Little comments like that don't show a great deal of "underlying respect".
"If you start out assuming that all politicians are ill-intentioned knaves and bounders who are all out to feather their own nests, you will illuminate nothing for your readers and discover very little of interest," she said.
So assuming all politicians are ill-intentioned is bad, but assuming that all Conservative politicians are ill-intentioned is OK?
"You will be adding to the dangerous anti-democratic mood that is creeping up on us at the moment where every lazy comedian or chat show host regurgitates the current knee-jerk view that Westminster is a palace of rogues who should all be sent packing."
Again, sound stuff. But when you make your business toadying up to the Labour government and pointing to the Conservative benches shouting "monsters" you lose much of the credibility of the argument.
"The right-wing papers are perplexed and affronted that Labour can have been in power so long despite their daily assault. The press is often near hysterical in its hatred of Labour — just look at the ever-more demented Mail and Express.". "There really is no point in becoming a political commentator if you despise the business, no more point than there would be if you became a football writer and you hated football."
Here poor Ms Toynbee misses the point completely; the Mail and the Express may well hate Labour, that is not the same as hating the whole political process. I hate what Labour has done to the political process yet I still want to be a politician. Polly, there is more to British politics than Tony, Gordon et al.
"Most political columnists these days are overtly and strongly opinionated, wearing their views on their sleeves as their brand. Many behave like mini-governments in exile. They're part of the political weaponry of their proprietors."
And you are different... how? Ahhhh, now we get to the meat of this lecture, attacking bloggers:
"The world of media is becoming an ever-noisier and brasher place with ever more competition to be heard among the great cacophony of views."
Hang on, earlier in lecture Polly was worried that communication was becoming less democratic and yet here she calls the broadening of base of commentators a "great cacophony".
"And that's before you even click on the internet and get that great explosion of blogging rawness. The quiet reasoned voice does seem to get trampled under the elephant heard of opinionators."
"People say: ‘What's the difference between a blog and column anyway? Isn't MySpace just as good as the Guardian comment pages?' I think not. There is a skill in crafting a column with a beginning, a middle and an end, a coherent argument and at least three facts readers don't know, preferably information gleaned from talking to the leading players in the case."
Sorry, can we just rewind there for a second - "a coherent argument and at least three facts"! Polly, if you managed to do these two things on anything like a regular basis you wouldn't get anywhere near the amount of stick that you get, and sites like Factchecking Pollyanna would have nothing to write about.
"A number of us columnists are anxious about it because it is a different style. It's not crafted, you haven't had the time to ring someone up, they want it now. There's a danger that it becomes more opinionated."
Or might they be anxious because they are losing their strangle-hold on mass distributed opinion? Might they be worried that the most popular blogs are matching their audience sizes and are taken just as seriously by politicians and voters?
Might it also smart a little when people point out that you aren't as good as you think you are?
"I have around 50 arch-enemies who seem to get up at about five in the morning — they have obviously never bought The Guardian, they wouldn't contaminate their fingers with it, and they are right-wingers who hate The Guardian and everything it stands for."
Does it occur to her that these abusive commentators are not anti-Guardian but anti-Toynbee?
Finally Polly demonstrates the most blatant lack of self-awareness, when asked why she is such a hate figure for right-wingers, Toynbee said:
"There's an old traditional thing if you're a woman, middle class, middle-aged — it goes right back to the beginnings of the Labour Party. You are a class traitor."
So, it's nothing to do with what she writes, or what she says or even who she is. It's all about what she is and the fact that we are all sexist, classist and ageist! Poor Polly.