The Corner

Poor Polly

Surreally entertaining Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee is at it again, this time in an article on the UK’s international role. As usual, her real message is that Britain should integrate itself ever deeper into the EU. Madness? Apparently not. Readers are told this:

“Average wages in western Europe are far higher than ours, their standard of living better, yet we brag about our brief recent economic growth while conveniently forgetting how far behind we remain. Won the war, lost the peace is still true.”

Blimey, crikey, strewth, tear up that Union Flag, scrap that awkward history, is it time for Brits to sign up for that El Dorado across the English Channel? Er, well, no. Indefatigable Toynbee fact- checker Scott Burgess has this to say:

“Polly must have missed the latest report from Eurostat (PDF), which states that “the MS [EU member states] with the highest level of earnings are Denmark and the United Kingdom. If we compare “Average gross annual earnings in industry and services of full-time employees in enterprises with 10 or more employees,” we find that, of European countries, only Switzerland, Norway and Denmark have higher earning levels. Indeed, 2001 figures (the latest complete dataset) put UK earnings at 22% higher than the 15 nation EU average. “Far higher,” one might even say.”

Ha ha ha.

I note that poor Polly also refers to the UK’s veto-wielding position on the UN Security council as “unearned.” Now, it’s quite possible to argue (I wouldn’t, but it’s at least possible) that the UK should no longer have that role, but to call it “unearned” seems a little hard on the Brits, at least to anyone who recalls what happened between 1939 and 1945. Something, about a war, I think.

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