For the world of higher education, April Fool’s Day 2018 has arrived three months early with the news that, in memory of the Roman Emperor Caligula’s decision to make his favourite horse Incitatus a Senator, the loathsome Toby Young has been gifted yet another sinecure, this time as a member of the board of the new Office for Students. The creation of this body has been led by higher education minister Jo Johnson, brother of Bozza.
Bringing us this less than earth-shattering news, the Guardian has entered into the spirit of this ridiculous charade by telling “The former journalist and free school advocate Toby Young is among a group of business executives who are to help head the government’s drive to apply market forces to higher education in England, as new laws come into force that will regulate universities in the same way as water or gas utilities, according to ministers”. Business Executive? Toby Young? Oh, just f*** right off.
The report also indulges in an Olympian act of turd polishing as it reminds us “Young is best known in recent years for his successful efforts in opening a free school in west London”. Successful? It was so successful that, had Sally Coates not been parachuted in following the departure of WLFS’ second head Sam Naismith - who left not just mid-year, not just mid-term, but mid-week - the school might well not have survived.
WLFS is now on its fourth head teacher in six years, after Hywel Jones, who succeeded Naismith, left at the end of last year. Tobes’ pride and joy used up north of £20 million of taxpayers’ money - that would be our money - including more than £9 million on buying an office block in Hammersmith which has so little outside space, it should not have been passed fit to form part of a school. Successful efforts my arse.
The Free School programme, which Tobes and his pals have lauded ad infinitum, and indeed ad nauseam, long ago went more than £1 billion over budget - that’s a one with nine zeroes, folks - and as I pointed out recently, there have been plenty of failures along the way, or as ordinary people would call them, wastes of time and money.
On top of that, Tobes’ highly partisan, and indeed fawning, right-wing leanings make him totally unfit for the position to which he has so laughably been appointed (see HERE for an example). He is ever willing to write biased, and indeed frequently untrue, copy to order, as witness his pack of lies about press regulation in the Spectator magazine just before last year’s General Election (given a suitable fisking HERE).
There is also the small matter of Tobes being frightened of debating issues like the behaviour of the press with victims or their representatives: he will be at the front of the queue when it comes to slagging off campaigning group Hacked Off, but when invited to debate with one of their representatives, shows he is of less than perfect courage.
Toby Young is not known as Westminster’s Village Idiot for nothing. He only got into Oxford because of his (then rather better-known) father’s intervention. He bullshits, lies and otherwise blusters to order for a discredited and out of touch Press Establishment. And as for leadership, he couldn’t lead Nigel Farage to the nearest pub. As Lyndon Johnson once put it, he couldn’t fart and chew gum at the same time.
Whatever the question, Toby Young is never the answer.