Gavin Drake

Journalist

Toby Young’s reserved un-reserved apology is to be welcomed

Toby Young’s decision to resign as a non-executive director of the embryonic quango Office for Students is to be welcomed. As is his “unreserved apology” for his past comments that made his appointment untenable. Even though his unreserved apology is somewhat reserved.

His statement suggests that he doesn’t actually get what the furore is about. His supporters also seemed confused. Speaking on the Sky News newspaper review this morning, the former Apprentice star Michelle Dewberry suggested that the campaign against Young was part of “an anti-Tory witch hunt”.

Actually, no. As she pointed out, Young was one of 15 non-executive directors appointed to the OFS. It would be extraordinary if a fair few of the other 15 are not also Conservative supporters.

I was one of those who opposed Young’s appointment to the OFS. But I wasn’t part of what some people call a Twitstorm.

I posted one Tweet. It was in response to a comment from former government education advisor Jamie Martin, who said that the opposition to Young’s appointment highlights that “there is a decent chunk of leftish opinion that doesn’t really believe in viewpoint diversity. They don’t actually believe conservative voices should be part of national conversation.”

My Tweet merely asked: “How is judging women and publicly describing women amd [sic] girls he does not know by the size of their breasts a “conservative voice”?”

But back to today’s “unreserved” apology and resignation statement (which, bizarrely, was not posted on the OFS website (which I can’t actually find), but on the Spectator’s blog). Young wrote:

“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, 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.”

It is right that Young should recognise his comments as “ill-judged” and “just plain wrong”. And his unreserved apology is to be welcomed.

By concern is that he seeks to hide beyond a role as a “journalistic provocateur”. There is nothing journalistic about commenting on the size of women’s and girls’ breasts. It is simply lewd and degrading behaviour. And it is for this reason – and that reason alone – why I opposed his appointment by the government to an official body designed to look after the interests of young people.

His defenders point out that he has started a number of free school. That is true. But if a teacher had made the comments that Young had made, it is likely that he would have been debarred by the General Teaching Council. It seems we have higher standards for teachers than we do for those who employ them.

Follow me on Twitter

© Gavin Drake 2017