Comment is free at The Guardian, except when it comes to criticising Polly Toynbee and the SDP - Press Gazette

Comment is free at The Guardian, except when it comes to criticising Polly Toynbee and the SDP

“Comment isn’t always free” at The Guardian – despite what one of its £20 T-shirts might suggest – according to former deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Lord Prescott wrote to the paper after he judged a Polly Toynbee comment piece about his “colleague and good friend Dennis Skinner” to be “unfair” and inaccurate.

“I would have thought the Guardian would have given due prominence to a contrary view and to show they'd made a mistake,” he wrote in a Twitlonger post.

“Instead they edited it, stripped out my comments and buried it at the bottom right of today's letters page. 

“This was in spite of it being well within the 250-word limit.”

To show what The Guardian had omitted, Prescott posted his original letter. Axegrinder has bolded up the two main statements taken out of the version which appeared in print.

The Guardian also censored the online version of the Prescott letter (where space is obviously not an issue).

"In her article ‘Skinner is No Model’ (Guardian Friday 4 July) Polly Toynbee claimed “Skinner, John Prescott and Alan Johnson – workers who came up through the unions, all clever men – would certainly go to university these days”.

"Dennis Skinner and I went to the Labour Trade Union’s Ruskin College in Oxford, where the entry qualifications were not O or A levels but your involvement in strikes. Thanks to Ruskin, I then went on to get a degree in economics at the excellent Hull University. I’m sorry the fact I went to university was not clear to Polly. Perhaps in future she should research her pieces before writing them.

"However, for Polly to blame Skinner and Tony Benn for “rendering Labour unelectable” in the 1980s is a bit much. The greater damage was the split to the Labour Party caused by the London dinner party that was the SDP, of which Polly was a founding member and a parliamentary candidate in 1983.

"It’s fair to say Polly and her fellow ‘social democrats’ made a much larger contribution to keeping Labour in the wilderness for 18 years than Skinner and Benn ever did.

"Yours academically,

John Prescott."

As Prescott says: "It seems the Guardian editors are a bit sensitive about London dinner parties and my advice that Polly should research her pieces."

The Toynbee piece has been amended to correct a mistake about Andy Burnham being described as a Liverpool MP but has not yet addressed the issue raised by Prescott.



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