Toby Young

Toby Young
Toby Young in 2011 (cropped).jpg
Young in 2011
Non-Executive Member of the Board of the
Office for Students
In office
2 January 2018 – 9 January 2018
Universities Minister Jo Johnson
Sam Gyimah[1]
Succeeded by TBD
Personal details
Toby Daniel Moorsom Young

(1963-10-17) 17 October 1963 (age 57)
Buckinghamshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative[2]
Caroline Bondy
( m.  2001)
Relations Michael Young (father)
Children 4
Alma mater Brasenose College, Oxford
Trinity College, Cambridge
Occupation Journalist

Toby Daniel Moorsom Young (born 17 October 1963) is a British social commentator and formerly Director of the New Schools Network, a free schools charity.[3] He is currently the London associate editor at Quillette[4][5] and has written for them since 2017.[6]

A proponent of free schools, Young co-founded the West London Free School and served as Director of the New Schools Network. Young supports what he describes as "progressive eugenics", which has been criticised by Iain Brassington in a blog for The BMJ on scientific and ethical grounds.[7][8] He has also been criticised for his comments on Twitter and edits to his Wikipedia article.[9][10][11][12]

Early life

Born in Buckinghamshire, Young was brought up in Highgate, North London, and in South Devon. His mother Sasha (1931–1993), daughter of Raisley Stewart Moorsom, a descendant of Admiral Sir Robert Moorsom, who fought at the Battle of Trafalgar, through his son, Vice-Admiral Constantine Richard Moorsom, chairman of the London and North-Western Railway,[13][14] was a BBC Radio producer, artist and writer,[15] and his father was Michael Young (later Baron Young of Dartington), a Labour life peer and pioneering sociologist who coined the word meritocracy.[16] Although entitled to use the style The Hon. Toby Young,[17] he does not.[18]

Young was educated at Creighton School (now Fortismere School), Muswell Hill and King Edward VI Community College, Totnes. He left school at 16 having failed all but one of his O Levels, a C in English Literature,[19] and worked under a Government Youth Training Scheme[citation needed]. He then retook his O Levels and went to the Sixth Form of William Ellis School, Highgate, leaving with two Bs and a C at A Level. Despite thus failing to achieve the College's BBB offer, he was given a place at Brasenose College, Oxford. Young claims he was sent an acceptance letter by mistake, as well as a letter of rejection from the admissions tutor Harry Judge: in an article he wrote for The Spectator, he stated that his father phoned Judge to clarify the situation – Judge was in a meeting with the PPE tutors at the time, and after some discussion, they decided to offer Young a place.[20] He had been given a conditional offer of three Bs plus an O Level pass in a foreign language under a scheme to give access to comprehensive pupils.[21][22][20]

Young graduated in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and then worked for The Times for a six-month period as a news trainee until he was fired.[23][24] The reason he was sacked, according to Young in The Sound of No Hands Clapping (2006), was for hacking the computer system and circulating senior executives' salaries to others around the building, and impersonating the editor Charles Wilson.[25][26][27] This was followed by a two-year period at Trinity College, Cambridge where he carried out research for a doctorate that he did not complete.[27]

Journalism, writing and activism

In 1991, Young co-founded and co-edited the Modern Review with Julie Burchill and her then husband Cosmo Landesman. Its motto was "Low culture for highbrows".[28] "The whole enterprise was driven by one fairly simple idea," Young told John Harris writing for The Observer in 2005. "And that was that critics had a responsibility to take the best popular culture as seriously as the best high culture".[28]

Four years later the magazine was close to financial collapse and Young closed it down, angering his principal financial backer Peter York, as well as Burchill and staff writer Charlotte Raven.[26] Burchill had tried to replace Young as editor with Raven. "Ultimately the reason we fell out is because our relationship began as a kind of mentor-apprentice, and that was a kind of relationship which Julie was comfortable with. It was only when I succeeded in getting out from under her shadow that our relationship deteriorated", Young said in 2005.[29]

Young moved to New York City shortly afterwards to work for Vanity Fair accepting an invitation from its editor, Graydon Carter.[citation needed] In the time he wrote for the magazine he contributed 3,000 words, but was paid $85,000.[30] After being sacked by Vanity Fair in 1998, he stayed in New York for two more years, working as a columnist for the New York Press, before returning to the UK in 2000. A memoir of these years, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, was published in 2001.[31]

Following Jack Davenport, Young performed in the West End one-man stage adaptation of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People in 2004 in which, according to The Guardian's Lyn Gardner, he managed to "make a spectacle of himself".[32] In 2005, he co-wrote (with fellow Spectator journalist Lloyd Evans) a sex farce about the David Blunkett/Kimberley Quinn intrigue and the "Sextator" affairs of Boris Johnson and Rod Liddle called Who's the Daddy?[33] It was named as the Best New Comedy at the 2006 Theatregoers' Choice Awards.[34]

From 2002 to 2007, Young wrote a restaurant column for the Evening Standard and later a restaurant column for The Independent on Sunday. In addition to serving as a judge on Top Chef, Young has competed in the Channel 4 TV series Come Dine with Me, appeared as one of the panel of food critics in the 2008 BBC Two series Eating with the Enemy and served as a judge on Hell's Kitchen.[35]

Young is an associate editor of The Spectator, where he writes a weekly column, the editor of Spectator Life[36] and a regular contributor to the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph.[37] His Telegraph blog was long-listed for the 2012 George Orwell Prize for blogging.[38] He was a political columnist for The Sun on Sunday for its first 11 months.[39] At the time of the paper's launch in late February 2012, in a Twitter exchange with comedy writer Graham Linehan, he was asked about working for Rupert Murdoch and the events before Milly Dowler's murder became known: "That murdered girl thing? Check the Guardian story. Turned out to be balls. Get off your high horse". The story itself was not in error, but the paper did falsely claim the News of the World's journalist Glenn Mulcaire had deleted her voicemail.[40][41]

During the 2015 Labour leadership election, he encouraged readers of the politically conservative Daily Telegraph to join the Labour party and support Jeremy Corbyn, who Young thought was the weakest candidate.[42]

In 2019, Young found the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory to appeal to his intellectual proclivities. He wrote an article for The Spectator entitled "Are the cultural Marxists in retreat, or lying low?", and he was associated in print with MP Suella Braverman.[43][44]

In February 2020, Young co-founded the Free Speech Union.

Free schools advocate

Young was a proposer and co-founder of the West London Free School, the first free school to sign a funding agreement with the Education Secretary, and is now a trustee of The West London Free School Academy Trust, the charitable trust that manages the school.[45][46] The school was founded at Palingswick House, which displaced over 20 voluntary organsations previously located there.[47] He stood down as CEO of the school in May 2016 after admitting that he did not realise how difficult it was going to be to run.[48] The national press coverage of the school having four headteachers in the space of six years was linked to the higher profile for the school engendered by its links to Young.[49] The trust opened a primary school in Hammersmith in 2013, a second primary in Earls Court in 2014 and a third primary in Kensington in 2016.[50] Young is a follower of the American educationalist E. D. Hirsch and an advocate of a traditional, knowledge-based approach to education.[51]

In 2012, Young wrote an article in The Spectator criticising the emphasis on "inclusion" in state schools, saying that the word "inclusive" was "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...".[52] Young denied that he was attacking the provision of equal access to mainstream schools for people with disabilities, saying he was only referring to the alleged "dumbing down" of the curriculum.[53]

On 29 October 2016, Young was appointed Director of the New Schools Network, a charity founded in 2009 to support groups setting up free schools.[54] He resigned from this role in March 2018.[3]

Published works

In addition to the book How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Young is the author of The Sound of No Hands Clapping (2006), How to Set Up a Free School (2011) and What Every Parent Needs to Know: How to Help Your Child Get the Most Out of Primary School (2014), which he co-wrote with Miranda Thomas.[55]

Film and television

British producer Stephen Woolley and his wife Elizabeth Karlsen produced the film adaptation How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008) in conjunction with FilmFour. Young, who co-produced the film, was played by Simon Pegg.[56] It was released in Britain on 3 October 2008 and reached the number one spot at the box office in its opening week.[57][58] The film received mostly negative reviews[59] and was a commercial failure, losing over £8 million.[60]

Young co-produced and co-wrote When Boris Met Dave (2009), a drama-documentary for Channel 4 about the relationship between Eton and Oxford University contemporaries Mayor Boris Johnson and Conservative Party Leader PM David Cameron. It was first broadcast on More4 on 7 October 2009 and later shown on Channel 4.[61]


Office for Students

In early January 2018, he was briefly a non-executive director on the board of the Office for Students;[62] a controversial appointment, he resigned over a week later after misogynistic and homophobic Twitter posts were uncovered.[9]

Young was announced as one of the non-executive members of the board for the new Office for Students in January 2018, a body which is intended to ensure institutions in higher education are accountable. Michael Barber would be chair of the Board.[62][63] It emerged soon afterwards that misleading claims had been made by the Department for Education about Young's posts at the University of Cambridge and Harvard. Although they were teaching roles, he was not appointed to any academic post.[53]

Because of this, senior Labour figures such as Dawn Butler and Angela Rayner criticised Young's appointment; however, he maintained he had support from senior Conservatives such as Boris Johnson (brother of Jo Johnson, the universities minister who had appointed Young) and Michael Gove.[64] Theresa May also defended the appointment on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, but said she was previously unaware of the comments he had made on Twitter and "he would no longer be in public office" if he continued his previous use of language.[65] On 8 January, universities minister Jo Johnson said in the House of Commons in answer to a question over the appointment: "We want to encourage Mr Young to develop the best sides of his personality".[66] He resigned from the position the next day, writing in The Spectator that his appointment had "become a distraction" counteracting the "vital work" of the OfS.[67][68] Shortly afterwards, Young resigned as a Fulbright Commissioner.[69]

An inquiry was launched shortly after Young's resignation by Peter Riddell, the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Riddell said the OfS panel report to ministers about Young "made no mention of Mr Young’s history of controversial comments and use of social media". The disquiet which followed "makes a strong case for more extensive due diligence inquiries".[70] Young later denied that he is a misogynist or a homophobe and characterized complaints as being from the "outrage mob".[71]


In 2015, Young wrote an article for the Australian magazine Quadrant entitled "The fall of meritocracy". In it he advocated what he termed "progressive eugenics." Young proposed that when the technology for selecting embryos for high intelligence is mature, it should be provided "free of charge to parents on low incomes with below-average IQs."[72] He argued this "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," through a mechanism that should be acceptable to political conservatives.[72] This argument has been criticized on scientific and ethical grounds.[7]

In January 2018, Private Eye[73] and the London Student[74] revealed that Young attended the London Conference on Intelligence at University College London (UCL) in 2017, which was described by the media and a number of politicians as a "secret eugenics conference".[75] The conference was convened by Honorary UCL professor James Thompson, and included speakers such as Richard Lynn.[76]

Responding to these reports, Young wrote in The Spectator that he attended the conference as a journalist to report about it (which he later did) and that he "only [attended] for a few hours on a Saturday"[70] in preparation for the "super-respectable" International Society for Intelligence Research conference in Montreal in July 2017 at which he gave a speech, which was later published.[76][77][78] He also says that his resignation from the OfS and his presence at the conferences were unconnected.[78]

Hammond accusation

In September 2019, Young accused a previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, on Twitter of promoting a "disgusting anti-Semitic conspiracy theory" by claiming, according to Young, that "Boris is being manipulated by a secret cabal of city financiers who stand to profit from economic ruin" after Hammond had said that the prime minister was "backed by speculators who have bet billions on a hard Brexit". Young apologised after Hammond responded that he was taking legal advice for defamation.[79]

COVID-19 lockdown

In March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, Young wrote in The Critic that he "suspect[ed] the Government has overreacted to the coronavirus crisis", expressing worry about the "economic cost".[80] In reference to the modelling of a team at Imperial College led by Neil Ferguson, he wrote: "spending £350 billion to prolong the lives of a few hundred thousand mostly elderly people is an irresponsible use of taxpayer's money."[80] Peter Jukes tweeted, "in normal times the far right eugenicist views of people like Toby Young are just shameful and embarrassing. During a pandemic they can be outright deadly." Darren McGarvey compared Young's views to austerity.[80]

Young, who initiated the Lockdown Sceptics newsletter[81] called for stopping the lockdown before 14 April 2020. Claiming that he had likely contracted the virus, he wrote that "if the Government does end the lockdown, and it turns out that by the time I require critical care the NHS cannot accommodate me, I won't regret writing this."[80] He argued his own death would be "acceptable collateral damage" to prevent GDP dropping significantly.[80]

Young's view contrasts with scientific recommendations for lockdown policy in the UK.[82]

Personal life

Prior to getting married, Young employed a Russian "daily" whom he later described as "a kind of surrogate mother". Young has since complained about the difficulty of finding reliable domestic staff.[83]

In 1997, Young met Caroline Bondy while living in New York.[84] After they split up, Young gave up drinking, saying he "thought the only way I could persuade her to get back with me would be if I sobered up". He began drinking alcohol again two years later, on their wedding day in July 2001.[85] Young and Bondy were engaged in 2000 and married a year later.[86] They have four children.[87]

Young's name and contact details appear, along with Ghislaine Maxwell and Prince Andrew's, in the 'little black book' of, financier and convicted sex offender, Jeffery Epstein.[88] Before the book was made public, Young wrote an article for The Spectator in 2011, after Epstein's initial conviction, that preemptively defended anyone who might have close links to Epstein.[89]

Drug use

Young has admitted using illegal drugs – specifically taking cocaine at the Groucho Club in central London,[90] and also supplying drugs to others. He was subsequently expelled from membership of the Club in late 2001 for writing about the cocaine use of his friends whom he had supplied with the drug during a photo shoot for Vanity Fair.[91] Such activities are against Club rules; the incident occurred in 1997.[90]

Twitter and Wikipedia

Young has come under criticism for comments he made on Twitter, most of which were deleted upon his appointment to the Board of the Office for Students. Young said that he posted more than 56,000 tweets, of which 8,439 remain.[9]

These included what an Evening Standard editorial called "an obsession with commenting on the anatomy of women in the public eye".[92] He referred on Twitter to the cleavage of unnamed female MPs sitting behind Ed Miliband in the Commons in 2011 and 2012. When later challenged by Stella Creasy on Newsnight he said of the second such incident: "It wasn’t my proudest moment".[93][94] Other remarks included slurs described as homophobic, including a claim that George Clooney is "as queer as a coot".[10][95]

One tweet by Young was in response to a BBC Comic Relief appeal in 2009 for starving Kenyan children.[96] During the broadcast, a Twitter user commented that she had "gone through about 5 boxes of kleenex" whilst watching. Toby Young replied: "Me too, I havn't [sic] wanked so much in ages".[65] He has expressed remorse for his "politically incorrect" tweets.[97]

Young is reported to have edited his own Wikipedia page 282 times in the decade to January 2018.[11][12]


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  44. ^ Retrieved 24 September 2020. Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  88. ^ Retrieved 3 August 2020. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  89. ^ Retrieved 3 August 2020. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  90. ^ a b Milner, Catherine; Hastings, Chris (4 November 2001). "White powder scare at the Groucho". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  91. ^ Young, Toby (18 November 2001). "I've been kicked out of the club". The Observer. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
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External links