LONDON – The UK government’s decision to appoint Toby Young to the board of a new universities regulator has sparked outrage due to contentious things the journalist and “free school” pioneer has tweeted in the past.
Theresa May’s government announced last week that Young will sit on the board of the newly-established Office for Students.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson defended the decision on Wednesday morning. Johnson, who once worked with Young at The Spectator, tweeted:
Ridiculous outcry over Toby Young. He will bring independence, rigour and caustic wit. Ideal man for job
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 3, 2018
However, Labour has urged May to reverse the appointment, citing a series of tweets Young has now deleted which have been described as sexist, homophobic and insulting to a number of groups.
Dawn Butler, shadow minister for women and equalities, tweeted: “Theresa May cannot allow this appointment to stand. She must also explain what exactly made them appointment him in the first place. Transparency is key to changing attitudes and outcomes.”
Young is perhaps best-known for setting up a number of free schools in West London. Free schools are state-funded but not fully-controlled by local authorities. They are usually created by groups including charities, religious bodies, businesses and parent groups, and are exempt from sticking completely to the national curriculum.
Young has in the past claimed that working-class students at Oxford University were “universally unattractive” and “small, vaguely deformed undergraduates.” He also described wheelchair ramps being installed in British schools as a symptom of “ghastly inclusivity.”
He described a gay celebrity as looking “queer as a coot” and recalled visiting a bar containing “hardcore dykes.”
He also made a series of apparently sexist remarks about women.
Young has denied holding any prejudices: “I’m neither misogynistic nor homophobic. I’m a strong supporter of both women’s rights and LGBT rights,” he said.
He also posted a 40 tweet thread responding to the allegations.
Here are the tweets about women that Young has deleted:
Questions have also been asked about Young’s suitability for the role.
The Department for Education had previously claimed that he had held teaching posts at two of the world’s most prestigious universities, Harvard and Cambridge.
However, Young told the Guardian newspaper that this claim was not accurate.
“I taught undergrads at Harvard and Cambridge and was paid to do so but these weren’t academic ‘posts’ and I’ve never made that claim,” he said.