This morning it has been announced that Toby Young has resigned from the board of the Office of Students. The resignation follows a barrage of complaints on social media, almost solely from the Left.
The attacks seemed to focus on two things in regards to Mr Young’s supposed lack of suitability for the job. Before I look at those, it is worth pointing out that Toby Young was simply taking up one of fifteen seats on a board, not being put directly in sole charge of anything. You wouldn’t have got that from any of the various attacks on him over the last day or so and it is worth noting for context.
The first thing the attacks from the Left touched upon were past comments from Toby Young on social media that they deemed unacceptable. These mostly seemed to focus on his comments about women’s breasts, which struck me as adolescent but hardly damning. To all those out there who are making out that Young’s tweets are misogyny of the lowest rank, I can only say that having worked in Westminster for almost eight years now, I’ve witnessed misogyny of the lowest rank and Young’s comments on “knockers” are a very long way from such a nadir. I know, that’s partially not the point, but then again it kind of is; while I understand the Left’s desire to take the opportunity to stamp out sexual harassment while the historical opportunity presents itself, it should think carefully about how prudish it is becoming and how much speech that’s reasonably harmless in context they are now on a crusade to stamp out. One of the reasons I disliked the Right in my youth was back then it was that side of the political equation that was trying to censor everything. How times have changed.
The second charge thrown at Toby Young’s appointment was that it was an example of cronyism – old school tie, jobs for the boys, that sort of thing. This is hypocrisy from the Left at its worst: having been around both the Conservative and Labour parties on a professional basis for several years, I can only say that Labour is much, much worse at this sort of thing. The idea of Labour figures denouncing the Tories for sticking friends in supposedly high places is pot, kettle, black on steroids.
Look, I have no idea if Toby Young was an appropriate choice for the Office of Students board and I’m not interested in thinking about it now as his resignation makes it a moot point. All I know is that I watched a witch hunt against someone over the last day or so that made me feel uncomfortable. I don’t really know Toby Young – we’ve very briefly spoken at various party conferences over the years, so I’ve probably spent a total of ninety seconds with the guy – so this isn’t personal. I think the whole thing reflects badly on the Left, however, because I think a lot the Toby Young furore was anger displacement. Jeremy Corbyn has once again said that when Britain voted to leave the EU, it voted to leave the single market, echoing the right of the Conservative Party. Theresa May has been through an embarrassing attempt at a reshuffle, yet we all know it doesn’t really matter because Jeremy Corbyn continues to be the worst leader of the opposition ever. The Left feel that they should be all over this government at every turn – yet, alas, they are not. Corbyn is untouchable because of the general election not ending in the extermination of the Labour Party, a surreal turn of events when you stop and think about it.
The anger all of this creates has to go somewhere, I suppose. Poor Toby Young just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as far as I can see.