After the loathsome Toby Young resigned his sinecure as a board member of the new Office for Students, the questions began to be asked. How had those making the appointment missed Tobes’ incendiary Twitter excursions? What suitability did a partisan right-wing propagandist have for such a role? Hadn’t any other suitable candidates come forward? Was Tobes the best they could find? Seriously?
We now know the answer to all of those, and if the minister concerned, Bozza’s younger brother Jo Johnson, had an ounce of principle in his body, he would resign in shame. Sadly, in accordance with the rest of his family’s forays into public life, he doesn’t, and so he won’t. Put directly, commissioner for public appointments Peter Riddell’s report says, more or less, that the Tories fiddled the selection for Tobes.
His report (see it HERE) makes it clear that there was a failure to do due diligence on the one candidate for whom it should have been done, and done comprehensively. Moreover, it’s entirely possible that Tobes would not have put himself forward for the role, but for the intervention of Jo Johnson - who contacted him about applying. Alright Tobes, how about you apply for this nice little earner we’ve got here? You scratch my back, and all that.
Worse, it is clear that one candidate who was considered highly suitable for the role later handed to Tobes was vetoed by Downing Street - in other words, by a process of direct political interference in the Civil Service, a body which is supposed to be independent of such machinations. Why? “There had been a desire amongst ministers and special advisers not to appoint someone with close links to student unions, such as the National Union of Students”. Think about that. Tories excluding someone for union membership.
But it is on the subject of due diligence, and particularly Tobes’ social media past, where Riddell’s report is at its most scathing. The candidate vetoed for union membership had social media pored over comprehensively: “the social media activity of the initially preferred candidate for the student experience role was extensively examined”.
Not Tobes, though. “Notably, no such exploration or research was made on other possible appointees, including Mr Young”. This prompted further adverse comment. “Mr Young’s reputation as a controversialist, in itself hardly a secret, should have prompted further probing to examine whether what he had said and done might conflict with his public responsibilities and standards expected on the OfS board”. And there was more.
“The rapid disclosure of what were described as offensive tweets in the days after his appointment suggests that it was not that hard to find them, that not much delving was required”. And on top of all that, “The report also details the DfE’s repeated efforts to minimise or delay requests for information about the appointment process from the commissioner’s office”. The Government tried to obstruct the inquiry.
Tobes’ mates put him up to applying for the job. They then failed to check his - rather easily available - social media past. Then they tried to frustrate efforts to find out how the appointment came to be made. All of that reflects not so much on Tobes, but his pals in the Government. Jo Johnson should resign, or be sacked. And now.
Another attempt to find jobs for the boys by a discredited Government. No change there.