So today Toby Young resigned from his position at the Office for Students, after a relentless campaign against his appointment from the left of British politics, who smelled blood after a number of unsavoury tweets and articles from Mr Young’s past made headline news.
The tweets Mr Young had posted were indeed highly distasteful, and culturally conservatives should not be applauding anyone for such behaviour; crude and vulgar behaviour should not be encouraged by those wishing to halt the decline of traditional Western culture. The job Mr Young was given was, equally, not necessarily one to applaud: the Office for Students is a centralised regulator and competition authority for higher education in the UK. Among the roles for the body is to sanction universities that are deemed to be failing to protect free speech – a laudable mission, given that universities are (partly) taxpayer funded, but still, the OfS smacks of centralisation.
Mr Young was, however, very qualified for the job: he is is co-founder of the West London Free School and director of the New Schools Network, a free schools charity (free schools are state-funded schools which enjoy a degree of independence from their local authority). What’s more, he is a self-confessed “classical liberal”, and on a number of issues he is a rare breath of sanity in a political circus in which most of the actors are firmly to the left of traditional social democrats.
Once Mr Young had been appointed to the role, even in the face of relentless criticism from the left, the only thing to do was to fight back. Don’t apologise. Mr Young should have acknowledged that his past actions were in bad taste, which he did, but left it there. The left only went so aggressively after him because he was a conservative, not because of his behaviour. The behaviour was the opening they needed to attack, but they would never have gone after their own with the same vigour. Mr Young should have stood his ground and refused to bow to their pressure, which was evidently, at least in part, motivated by tactics.
The reality is this: the left does have a cultural agenda of pursuing identity politics and political correctess, and for many it is the overriding crusade of the time, trumping even the traditional leftist priority of forced wealth redistribution. But the agenda is not above all; it can be relegated if the person who falls foul of it is politically (or personally) useful. The obvious example is Harvey Weinstein, who was only shunned by his liberal Hollywood chums once he became a liability when the wider public got to know about his misdeeds. And there are plenty of other cases; take Jared O’Mara, a Labour MP who also tweeted highly offensively about gays and women, but who had the whip removed by a reluctant Labour leadership only after the Tories went after him. Now the shoe is on the other foot: same crime, but the people calling for punishment are different. It is blatant hypocrisy. And it is ripe on the left, who paint themselves as principled protectors of the underprivileged and repressed, but whose principles are constantly bent to suit their insatiable appetite for power and privilege for themselves. It is a sad spectacle, but it works; Toby Young proved that today. We hope that someday, someone has the guts to stand up to the SJW left, because if we do not fight back they will come for us all.