Toby Young has resigned after strong backlash

Posted by
Sonya Barber

The right-wing commentator Toby Young, known for his homophobic and sexist views, has stepped down from the new universities watchdog.

After facing heavy criticism for his offensive comments, we’re happy to hear that Toby Young has resigned from his new position on the board of the Office for Students (OfS). 

He explained the decision in The Spectator on Tuesday speaking about the OfS, he said, “My appointment has become a distraction from its vital work of broadening access to higher education and defending academic freedom.” 

He defended himself, saying: “The caricature drawn of me in the last seven days, particularly on social media, has been unrecognisable to anyone who knows me. I am a passionate supporter of inclusion and helping the most disadvantaged […] But some of the things I said before I got involved in education, when I was a journalistic provocateur, were either ill-judged or just plain wrong – and I unreservedly apologise.”

The news follows a wave of condemnation and outrage. 

The Chair of the Commons education committee Robert Halfon said Young’s remarks “went too far.”

“If we are to stand up as the Conservative party for what is right, we also have to accept when we have made a mistake” he admitted to the Today Programme.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Teresa May said she was “not at all impressed” by Young’s previous remarks and that if he made those comments while in post, “he would no longer be in public office”.

Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, also called the appointment “a serious mistake”.

Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, said it was “utterly unacceptable” to have such a person on a public body involved with education.

And Shadow Home Secretary Diana Abbot tweeted that “He should never have been appointed in the first place.” We couldn’t agree more.

And it wasn’t just those in politics and education who spoke out. A petition on demanding his resignation has gained over 220,500 signatures.

The former journalist, who still writes for The Spectator and has previously helped establish several free schools, came under fire last week for his derogatory and frankly pretty damn disgusting comments on social media – which he rapidly deleted.

Young said he had “composed over 56,000 tweets” last Tuesday, but the next day that dropped to 8,439.

Young has made A LOT of highly offensive comments since 2009, most of which have now been deleted – but have been screengrabbed

They range from describing George Michael as “queer as coot” and talking about visiting a bar full of “hardcore dykes”, to pointing out “cleavage” behind Ed Miliband during Prime Minister’s Questions in 2011 (he later defended himself saying that “Women who display a lot of cleavage shouldn’t then complain when men notice.”).

When commenting on a photo of himself next to US television host Padma Lakshmi, he wrote that he “Actually mate, I had my d*** up her a***.” Charming.

When writing about sexual harassment in the workplace in December 2016, he said “companies need to get prepared for young employees who will take offence at anything” and then told the story of when he “hired a strippergram to surprise a male colleague on his birthday on what turned out to be Take Our Daughters to Work Day. ”

He also said wheelchair ramps in schools were a sign of “ghastly inclusivity” and claimed working-class students at Oxford University were “universally unattractive”.

Okay, you get the message. We’ll stop now before we get any angrier. 

And it wasn’t just us who felt incensed last week. Labour demanded Theresa May reverse the appointment. Shadow minister for women and equalities, Dawn Butler, called on May sack Young over the tweets saying: “By any measure, this is a shocking appointment by the Prime Minister. These comments show that Toby Young is completely unsuitable for this role.”

However, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leapt to Young’s defence saying that it was a “Ridiculous outcry over Toby Young. He will bring independence, rigour and caustic wit. Ideal man for job.” Errrr?

Johnson is yet to post a follow-up tweet.

The newly-created Office for Students is a government-created regulator designed to champion the interests of students in higher education. 

Image: Rex Features