The Existence of Toby Young

Boris Johnson chats with Toby Young and Headteacher Thomas Packer, September 2011.

I often wonder if Toby Young really exists. I mean he could be real, or he could be a piece of advanced satire. It’s hard to say these days. It may be plausible that he does exist, but somehow it’s hard to believe.

So I find myself contemplating this question after it was announced that Young will be heading the Office for Students. This new body was put together after universities minister Jo Johnson declared open season on ‘no-platforming’ by student unions. It’s a bit of red meat thrown out to the Tory base. A lot of right-wing people are convinced that the average university is a hotbed for revolutionary socialists, who are doggedly fighting to crush free speech.

Enter Toby Young. He was allegedly born in North London, the son of Baron Michael Young – one of the great minds behind the 1945 Labour Manifesto – who coined the term meritocracy to describe a dystopian form of social mobility, where vast numbers of people are cast down as undeserving scum. Befittingly, the young Toby was rejected by Oxford but got into Brasenose College in the end thanks to his dad’s connections.

In the decades since Young has cultivated a career as a right-wing journalist and even tried running a free school in West London. It was a failure and, after a slew of resignations, Young too stepped down. Apparently, putting Young on a new council is meant to somehow address the problem of the student left stamping out free speech on university campuses. Or, more likely, to make Conservatives feel like something is being done.

Of course, the Tory leadership has to find new ways to mobilise its ageing voters, but it will no doubt narrow its appeal in doing so. This is the irony of elevating a journalist to the rank of an expert on higher education policy. But who else could be a better choice than Toby?

Consider the options. Who else could guarantee the maximum displeasure of teachers? Who else could encourage more protest on campus by merely existing? The answer is obviously Michael Gove, but he’s too busy trying to reinvent himself as a Green Tory (don’t ask). So that leaves us with dear Mr. Young.

Toby Young could easily be a false flag operation by some bored cultural Marxists looking to undermine the right by giving it the smug grimace it deserves (you read it here first, Breitbart). Now I can hear you already saying: “Of course, he’s real! I’ve seen him on telly?!” Well, maybe so. Maybe you saw a ham actor giving the performance of a lifetime. After all, we all want our 15 minutes.

Even Gove would never have had the clarity of vision to pen these words:

My proposal is this: once this technology [genetically engineered intelligence] becomes available, why not offer it free of charge to parents on low incomes with below-average IQs? Provided there is sufficient take-up, it could help to address the problem of flat-lining inter-generational social mobility and serve as a counterweight to the tendency for the meritocratic elite to become a hereditary elite. It might make all the difference when it comes to the long-term sustainability of advanced meritocratic societies.

Gove may have implemented the free schools policy, yet he even he didn’t lack the brains to speak so explicitly about the lower orders. Say what you will about the man, but Gove had the sense not to publish a tirade against inclusion in education:

Inclusive. It’s one of those ghastly, politically correct words that have survived the demise of New Labour. Schools have got to be ‘inclusive’ these days. That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library (though no Mark Twain) and a Special Educational Needs Department that can cope with everything from dyslexia to Münchausen syndrome by proxy. If [then education secretary, Michael] Gove is serious about wanting to bring back O-levels, the government will have to repeal the Equalities Act because any exam that isn’t ‘accessible’ to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to be ‘elitist’ and therefore forbidden by Harman’s Law.

I also can’t quite imagine Gove in this situation, let alone writing about it afterwards:

Of course, the problem with using Sasha [Young] as a pulling accessory is that I can’t just dump her in the arms of my wife, turn to the girl who’s been making googly eyes at her, and say, “Fancy a shag then?”

One of the things that makes fathers so attractive is that our babies are living, breathing evidence of our devotion to our wives. No one could accuse us of being commitment phobic. Consequently, if we start flirting a little too outrageously with girls like Sophie, we suddenly become very unattractive. We must simply stand there like statues, happy to be gazed at, but never returning that gaze. Still, for someone like me, that’s a very pleasant new experience.

That’s before we even get into all the tweets about breasts, the articles about porn and cocaine. This is why I doubt the existence of Toby Young, a man who was banned from the set of the film adaptation of his own book because the cast found him so utterly obnoxious. These tales are not aberrations. It seems like Young’s life and career is composed entirely of such odd stories (if he exists, that is).

Take the story of novelist Will Self working with Young at Modern Review. On a night out, in a fit of seething rage, Self grabbed Toby and proceeded to try and force him into the flames of a nearby fireplace. Looking back on the incident, Self admitted it was not his best moment and went on to describe Young as a “phenomenally irritating”, “little noisesome tick”.

Another great story is of Sean Langan, a war reporter and an alleged friend of Toby’s, who upon leaving for Afghanistan made a very specific request: “If I get kidnapped, don’t let my friend Toby Young try to help me. If he can alienate liberal people in London, God forbid if he starts talking about towelheads and Islamic nutcases. I’ll get beheaded.”

I hope Young is an elaborate hoax by the left. The man himself seems like a sad, some would say insecure, even lonely individual. After all, Toby wrote an article on his stag party and how he planned for 10 of his best mates to go out for a right mad one. Except only four of them showed up, leaving him to pen a column taking apart “the myth of friendship“. In a way, that’s all there is to say.

Photograph courtesy of Hammersmith & Fulham Council. Published under a Creative Commons license.

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