- Gareth Cattermole / Getty
- Controversial commentator Toby Young stands down from the government’s universities regulator.
- Young’s appointment led to a storm of criticism after dozens of sexist and offensive tweets and articles were unearthed.
- Young says his appointment had become a “distraction” from the work of the government.
- Ministers had defended his appointment in Parliament on Monday.
LONDON – Toby Young has resigned from the government’s university regulator following a storm of criticism over his long history of offensive tweets and articles.
In a piece written for the Spectator magazine, Young said he had become a “distraction” from the work of the government.
“I have decided to stand down from the Office for Students. My appointment has become a distraction from its vital work of broadening access to higher education and defending academic freedom,” he wrote.
He dismissed the criticism of his past as a “caricature,” but apologised for some of his comments.
“The caricature drawn of me in the last seven days, particularly on social media, has been unrecognisable to anyone who knows me,” Young wrote.
“I am a passionate supporter of inclusion and helping the most disadvantaged, as I hope my track record of setting up and supporting new schools demonstrates. But some of the things I said before I got involved in education, when I was a journalistic provocateur, were either ill-judged or just plain wrong – and I unreservedly apologise.”
Young’s history of offensive tweets and comments led to a debate in parliament on Monday, where ministers were put under intense pressure from both Conservative and opposition MPs to withdraw their support from Young.
Former Conservative Women’s Minister Maria Miller told MPs that Young’s appointment was “clearly at odds with the equality principles that this government is clearly supportive of.”
Conservative MP Sarah Woolaston said Young’s comments had “crossed a line”.
However, Universities Minister Jo Johnson defended the appointment, saying that while Young had expressed some “repellent” views, he had since embarked on a “developmental journey.”
Labour said Young’s departure cast “great doubt” on May’s judgement, after she personally defended his appointment at the weekend.
“The Toby Young saga has cast great doubt on the judgment of the PM who failed to sack him in the first place,” Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner tweeted.
“Then yesterday we had the spectacle of government universities minister defending his appointment in parliament, he had to go. Tory cronyism could not save his job.”
Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler said it showed a “total lack of judgement” from May.
“The Toby Young saga has further exposed Theresa May’s total lack of judgement in appointing him and her weakness in refusing to sack him,” she said.
“She should have removed him from his post, not personally backed him at the weekend and sent a minister out to defend him in Parliament yesterday.”