Toby Young regrets ‘politically incorrect’ comments

  • 3 January 2018

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Toby Young has said he regrets “politically incorrect” remarks he made in the past but has rejected claims of misogyny and homophobia.

The right wing journalist has faced a backlash on social media after it was announced he had been appointed to the board of a new university regulator.

Critics attacked his credentials and experience for the role.

And have unearthed social media comments about women and an old article about “being a lesbian for the night”.

In a passionate defence of his suitability to join the board of the Office for Students, Mr Young said he was a longstanding supporter of women’s and LGBT rights and meritocracy in education, rejecting suggestions he had called grammar schools pupils “stains” in a book about class in 1988.

‘Tory cheerleader’

The Office for Students has been established to hold universities to account on issues like vice chancellors’ pay and free speech on campus, with powers to fine universities which fail to meet the required standards.

A lecturers’ union complained that Mr Young – who helped to found the West London Free School -has no relevant experience and that he had only been chosen because he is a “Tory cheerleader” and passionate supporter of the party’s education policies.

Mr Young is one of 15 board members who were selected following an open appointment process.

Others on the board include lawyer Simon Levine, Boots executive Elizabeth Fagan and barrister and academic Carl Lygo.

Labour MP David Lammy has said Mr Young should not be on the list because he is an “avowed and proudly sexist misogynist”.

Urging Mr Young to withdraw, he said he had a history of making “unacceptable” remarks about disabled students and pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In a 2012 Spectator column, Mr Young hit out at the “inclusivity” agenda in schools, suggesting it meant “wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library (though no Mark Twain) and a Special Educational Needs Department that can cope with everything from Dyslexia to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.”

He also called on the government to repeal the 2010 Equality Act suggesting “any exam that isn’t ‘accessible’ to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to be ‘elitist'”.

‘Bad taste’

Mr Young has also been accused of making disparaging and crude remarks about women’s breasts in social media posts, while a 2000 GQ article in which he wrote about “being a lesbian for a night” has also attracted criticism.

In a stream of messages on Twitter and a post on his No Sacred Cows blog, he accepted that some of his past remarks about diversity in education had been in bad taste but rejected accusations of misogyny.

Mr Young said it would be wrong for “right of centre mavericks” to be barred from holding public office simply because of their past writings.

And he again insisted that although he had very limited teaching experience, it would be wrong for a universities regulator to be populated entirely by people who worked in the sector.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – brother of Universities Minister Jo Johnson, who created the Office for Students to protect free speech on university campuses, said the “outcry” over Mr Young’s appointment was “ridiculous”.

Boris Johnson, who worked with Mr Young when he was editor the Spectator, said the writer’s “caustic wit” was among the attributes that would make him an “ideal man for the job,” adding that he had the “independence and rigour” to stand up for students’ interests.

And historian Antony Seldon, who is vice-chancellor of the University Buckingham, also rode to Mr Young’s defence.

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