Polly Toynbee – The Matrix Database

Polly Toynbee with her partner David Walker, a former commissioning editor at the Guardian.

The Matrix Project is an effort to document personal factors that undermine powerful journalists’ claims of objectivity and impartiality. Are factors such as an elite education, establishment connections, personal wealth and interests in rival fields compatible with journalistic integrity? 

This page looks at Guardian columnist and author Polly Toynbee. For more information on the database click here.


Learn about the significance of a private/Oxbridge education here

Polly Toynbee was privately educated at the independent Badminton School for Girls then at St Anne’s College, Oxford (Source).

Revolving Door

Learn about the significance of the Revolving Door here.

Polly Toynbee worked for Amnesty International in the former Rhodesia (source).

Toynbee stood as a candidate for the Social Democratic Party in 1983 and was a signatory of the Limehouse Declaration (source).

“Establishment” Connections

Learn about the significance of Establishment Connections here


Polly Toynbee’s father was novelist, journalist and literary critic Philip Toynbee (source).

Her mother was Anne Wollheim, who remarried renowned British philosopher Richard Wollheim (source).

Toynbee’s paternal grandfather was historian, philosopher and author Arnold J. Toynbee (source).

Her paternal grandmother was writer and novelist Rosalind Murray (source).

Toynbee’s great-great uncle, Arnold Toynbee, was a historian of economics (source).

Toynbee’s first husband, Peter Jenkins, was a journalist and former associate editor of The Independent (source).

Her current partner is former Guardian journalist and commissioning editor, David Walker (source).



Salary/Indications of Wealth

Learn about the significance of journalists with an unusual level of wealth here

Neither Polly Toynbee nor The Guardian disclose how much she is paid. As a prominent columnist and successful author, she likely earns a salary significantly above the UK average (listed as £26,193 for 2021 by the Office for National Statistics).

Complaints / apologies / controversies

Learn about the significance of complaints/apologies here

Toynbee was accused of hypocrisy for championing the state school system in the UK whilst sending her children to private schools (source).

In their own words…

I had a loopy idea that I could work with my hands during the day and in the evening come home and write novels and poetry, and be Tolstoy…But I very quickly discovered why people who work in factories don’t usually have the energy to write when they get home.”

Polly Toynbee


Polly Toynbee studied at Oxford after being privately educated. A former candidate for the SDP, she has numerous family establishment connections and is likely to earn significantly more than the UK national average.

Impartial? Independent? Holding the powerful to account?

Learn more about the Matrix Project here.

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