Turmoil in the Middle East, a reshuffle rumoured at Westminster, and Toby Young is offending the liberal establishment.
So far, 2018 doesn’t seem all that different from 2017. The occasion for the latest sputtering is the Speccie columnist’s appointment to the board of the Office for Students. The OfS is the new regulator of Britain’s universities and, according to the Department for Education website, will ‘promote students interests’. (The possessive apostrophe will presumably have to look out for itself.)
Paul Mason describes Young as a ‘Tory eugenicist and educational apartheid guru’. Danny Blanchflower declares him ‘totally unfit [and] unqualified’ and calls for his removal from a post he has only held for 24 hours. ‘Toby Young to help lead government’s new universities regulator,’ the Guardian‘s headline announces baldly, certain that readers will understand instantly that A Terrible Thing Has Befallen Us. At least Oxford academic Jonathan Healey had the good humour to rewrite Brian Clough: ‘I’m not saying Toby Young is the worst person for this job, but he’s in the bottom one.’
I don’t know Young, have never met him, and hold no brief for him. He is somewhere to the right of Torquemada, and in a long-term feud with my spiritual leader, Julie Burchill. He has written any number of things I find obnoxious, offensive, or risible. That’s his thing. He is the Jimmy Carr of punditry; Millwall in a Gieves & Hawkes suit. As Lynn Barber once summed up his career, ‘Toby Young has (despite his best efforts) made a success of himself.’