Toby Young steps down from education post amid furore over tweets

Journalist turned educationalist said his appointment had ‘become a distraction’

Toby Young: ‘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.’ Photograph:  Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Toby Young: ‘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.’ Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

 

Toby Young has announced he is standing down from the UK’s universities regulator saying his appointment has “become a distraction”.

The journalist turned educationalist apologised “unreservedly” for a string of controversial comments he had made on social media in recent years.

His announcement comes after ministers were forced defend his appointment in the House of Commons on Monday following backlash from MPs, including prominent members of the Conservative party.

Writing in The Spectator, Mr Young said: “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.”

A spokesman from the UK’s education department said: “We can confirm that Toby Young has decided to resign from the board of the Office for Students.

“Everyone appointed to the board brings valuable experience which will be vital to the role of the new higher education regulator, and we remain confident it will deliver for students.”

Mr Young’s resignation from the newly-created post of universities regulator — much like his appointment — quickly provoked debate among senior politicians.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “The Toby Young saga has cast great doubt on the judgment of the PM, who failed to sack him in the first place.”

Universities minister Jo Johnson, who was forced to defend him in the Commons on Monday night, stood firm in his support of Mr Young, who is a champion of free schools, which were introduced by David Cameron’s administration.

Mr Johnson, who is foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s brother, dismissed Mr Young’s detractors as “armchair critics”.

He wrote on Twitter: “Toby Young’s track record setting up & supporting free schools speaks for itself.

“His decision to stand down from the OfS board and repeat unreserved apologies for inappropriate past remarks reflects his character better than the one-sided caricature from his armchair critics.”

Young Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Mr Young’s resignation showed prime minister Theresa May had shown “poor judgment”.

He said: “Toby Young’s appointment was a serious mistake, but at least the man himself has realised as much and resigned.

“The Conservatives must get their basic due diligence right — getting a role in public office cannot be based solely on being a friend of Boris Johnson.

“Theresa May stood by a misogynist and supporter of eugenics. She has shown poor judgment and, coupled with a troubled reshuffle, has made a bad start to the year.” –PA