Toby Young resigns from university regulator

Toby YoungImage copyright
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Toby Young has resigned from the board of a new university regulator after criticism over controversial comments.

Writing for the Spectator, Mr Young said his appointment had “become a distraction” from the “vital work” of the Office for Students.

The right-wing journalist unreservedly apologised for his past comments which he said were “ill-judged or just plain wrong”.

A petition calling for his dismissal gathered almost 220,000 signatures.

Mr Young faced a backlash after his appointment was announced, with critics attacking his suitability for the role.

The columnist was the co-founder of the West London Free School – which opened in 2011 – and runs the New School Network.

Following his appointment to the OfS, Mr Young deleted up to 40,000 tweets posted since 2009, including references to the size of women’s breasts.

Comments made about working class students, about “inclusivity” in a Spectator column in 2012, and remarks aimed at gay people, were also criticised.

Chair of the education committee Robert Halfon, said things Mr Young had said on disability, eugenics and working people, went too far.

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

Unreserved apology

In his resignation article, Mr Young said “the caricature” drawn of him during the past week was “unrecognisable”.

He wrote: “I am a passionate supporter of inclusion and helping the most disadvantaged, as I hope my track record of setting up and supporting new schools demonstrates.

“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.”

Mr Young thanked Prime Minister Theresa May and the former education secretary Justine Greening for their support.

Media captionPM: “If he was to continue to use that kind of language… he would no longer be in public office”

The Office for Students has been established to hold universities to account on issues like vice chancellors’ pay and free speech on campus.

It has powers to fine universities which fail to meet the required standards.

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

The BBC’s assistant political editor, Norman Smith, said he suspects Mr Young’s resignation will privately come as a huge relief to the prime minister.

His position had looked “deeply embarrassing” for the government, he told the Today programme.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s education secretary, said the appointment and resignation “cast great doubt” on Mrs May, who, she said, had failed to sack him in the first place.

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

But Piers Morgan said Mr Young had been forced out by the “howling Twitter mob”.

“I don’t defend his more offensive tweets or columns,” the Good Morning Britain presenter wrote, “but I do think he would have brought a valuable and distinctive perspective to university education.”

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