Last weekend, Theresa May told Andrew Marr that, while she did not approve of some of those allegedly historic Tweets from the loathsome Toby Young, he would not be sacked from his post on the board of the new Office for Students. Education minister Jo Johnson, younger brother of Tobes defender Bozza, was equally steadfast in his defence yesterday in the Commons. Both are therefore diminished this morning.
Because Tobes has finally, and probably reluctantly, decided to face the music and leave the stage. As the BBC has reported, “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’”. And there was more.
“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’”. Halfon, who has a walking disability, was unswerving in his opposition to the appointment. And he was not alone.
A Prime Minister further devalued
Sadly, Tobes has had problems even coming clean about that past, telling “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”.
As Jonathan Portes pointed out this morning, Tobes was still lying and smearing to order less than a year ago. His attack on the Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake was shot through with such dishonesty that even the Daily Mail could not defend it. And although the paper corrected Tobes’ lies, the man himself neither corrected, nor apologised.
And that went to the heart of the matter: there can be no credibility in a person who claims to have undergone what Bozza junior called “A transformative journey”, when they remain willing and able to lie and smear to the order of the right-leaning press. Moreover, the idea that this was some kind of “youthful indiscretion” will not wash: Tobes was making wank jokes and leering at an under-age girl in his mid-40s.
Worst of all, though, is that all those who backed this deeply repellant individual are diminished by their actions. For Spectator editor Fraser Nelson this is of little consequence, as his unprincipled and serial dishonesty is well known. But for Jo Johnson, and more importantly Theresa May, this is another deeply damaging episode, another occasion when they could have been decisive and shown leadership, but flunked it.
Ultimately, it shows once again the sheer folly in allowing the Press and Pundit Establishment tail to wag the dog of Government. That has brought us useless and inept ministers like Bozza and Gove. It is only by the force of opposition across the political spectrum that Toby Young’s latest gift of a taxpayer-funded sinecure was rescinded.
If Theresa May keeps on doing the right-wing press’ bidding, it will only end in tears.