Toby Daniel Moorsom Young (born 17 October 1963) is a British social commentator and the London associate editor at ''Quillette
'', for whom he has written since 2017.
A graduate of the University of Oxford
, Young briefly worked for ''The Times
'' before co-founding the London magazine ''Modern Review
'' in 1991, and edited it until financial difficulties led to its demise in 1995. His 2001 memoir ''How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
'' details his subsequent employment at ''Vanity Fair
''. He then went on to write for ''The Sun on Sunday
'', the ''Daily Mail
'', ''The Daily Telegraph
'' and ''The Spectator
''. He also served as a judge in seasons five and six of the television show ''Top Chef
''. A proponent of free schools
, Young co-founded the West London Free School
and served as Director of the New Schools Network
Young has been at the centre of several controversies. In 2015, he wrote an article in advocacy of genetically engineered intelligence, which he described as "progressive eugenic
In early January 2018, he was briefly a non-executive director on the board of the Office for Students
an appointment from which he resigned within a few days after Twitter
posts described as "misogynistic and homophobic" were uncovered.
In 2020, he promoted misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic
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
, was a BBC Radio producer, artist and writer, and his father was Michael Young
(later Baron Young of Dartington), a Labour life peer
and pioneering sociologist
who coined the word ''meritocracy
''. Although entitled to use the style ''The Hon. Toby Young'', he does not.
Young was educated at Creighton School
(now Fortismere School
), Muswell Hill
and King Edward VI Community College
. Young later claimed that he was not popular at school, writing, "My only friend was a black boy called Remi, who explained that the reason he'd taken a shine to me was because he knew what it was like to be a 'nigger'." He left school at 16 having failed all but one of his O Levels
, a C in English Literature, and worked under a Government Youth Training Scheme
. He then retook his O Levels and went to the Sixth Form of William Ellis School
, 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.
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.
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, for, according to Young himself, hacking the computer system: impersonating the editor Charles Wilson
and circulating senior executives' salaries to others around the building. 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.
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".
"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".
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
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.
Young moved to New York City shortly afterwards to work for ''Vanity Fair
'' accepting an invitation from its editor, Graydon Carter
. In the time he wrote for the magazine he contributed 3,000 words, but was paid $85,000. 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.
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". In 2005, he co-wrote (with fellow ''Spectator'' journalist Lloyd Evans) a sex farce about the David Blunkett
intrigue and the "Sextator" affairs of Boris Johnson
and Rod Liddle
called ''Who's the Daddy?''
It was named as the Best New Comedy at the 2006 Theatregoers' Choice Awards
. Michael Billington described it as "mildly amusing".
[ The following year ''A Right Royal Farce'', Young and Evans' play about sexual antics of the British royal family was poorly received by the press.] Young said of the play "It was an unqualified disaster". [ He also said "Nicholas de Jongh, the Evening Standard's drama critic, described it as the worst example of authorial ineptitude to grace the London stage since the Blitz."] [ Michael Billington gave it one star, describing it as "an evening of laughter-free desperation", "leadenly unfunny" and that the authors "don't know their farce from their elbow".] [
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''.
Young is an associate editor of ''The Spectator'', where he writes a weekly column, the editor of ''Spectator Life'' and a regular contributor to the ''Daily Mail'' and ''The Daily Telegraph''. His ''Telegraph'' blog was long-listed for the 2012 George Orwell Prize for blogging. He was a political columnist for ''The Sun on Sunday'' for its first 11 months. 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.
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.
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. The school was founded at Palingswick House, which displaced over 20 voluntary organsations previously located there. 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. 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. 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. Young is a follower of the American educationalist E. D. Hirsch and an advocate of a traditional, knowledge-based approach to education.
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...". 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.
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. He resigned from this role in March 2018.
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.
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. It was released in Britain on 3 October 2008 and reached the number one spot at the box office in its opening week. The film received mostly negative reviews and was a commercial failure, losing over £8 million.
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.
Office for Students
In January 2018 Young was announced as one of the non-executive members of the board for the new Office for Students, a body intended to ensure institutions in higher education are accountable.
The Guardian newspaper later revealed that claims (made not by Young himself, but by the Department for Education) about Young's teaching posts at the University of Cambridge and Harvard were misleading as although Young had taught at the universities, he had not been appointed to an academic post. The appointment became the subject of controversy when Twitter posts, described as "misogynistic and homophobic", were uncovered. [
Senior Labour figures such as Dawn Butler and Angela Rayner criticised the appointment; however Young 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. 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.] 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". Young 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. Shortly afterwards he resigned also as a Fulbright Commissioner.
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". Young later denied being a misogynist or a homophobe and characterized complaints as being from the "outrage mob".
In 2015, Young wrote an article for the Australian magazine ''Quadrant'' entitled "The fall of meritocracy". Under a section titled "Progressive eugenics"
he discussed developments in genetically engineered intelligence, and proposed that should the technology for selecting embryos for high intelligence become practicable, it could be provided "free of charge to parents on low incomes with below-average IQs.” 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. “This is a kind of eugenics that should appeal to liberals — progressive eugenics.” Young has maintained that criticism of him as a eugenicist is “based on a deliberate misreading” of the article and that “If ‘eugenics’ is forced sterilisation, what I was proposing was the opposite — free IVF for the poor.”
In January 2018, ''Private Eye'' and the ''London Student'' 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". The conference was convened by Honorary UCL professor James Thompson, and included speakers such as Richard Lynn.
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 ttendedfor a few hours on a Saturday" 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. He also says that his resignation from the OfS and his presence at the conferences were unconnected. [
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.
In March 2020 during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, Young wrote in ''The Critic'' that he "suspectdthe Government has overreacted to the coronavirus crisis", expressing worry about the "economic cost".
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." [ 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.] [
Young, who initiated the ''Lockdown Sceptics'' newsletter 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."] [ He argued his own death would be "acceptable collateral damage".] [
Young's view contrasts with scientific recommendations for lockdown policy in the UK.]
In June 2020 he wrote that "the virus has all but disappeared". In January 2021 he appeared on ''Newsnight'' and when he was challenged about his comments about the virus said "hands up, I got that wrong" and made arguments against lockdowns. [
On 14 January 2021 the British press regulator IPSO ruled that an article Toby Young had written for the ''Telegraph'' in July 2020 was "significantly misleading" and that the newspaper had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate information.] IPSO ordered the newspaper to publish a correction. [ In the article Young claimed that common cold coronaviruses gave people immunity against SARS-CoV-2, and that in July 2020 London had almost achieved herd immunity.] [ Neither claim was supported by scientists at the time (even the scientists who thought there was cross-immunity with common cold coronaviruses argued that it could provide protection against severe disease from covid-19, not that it could prevent infection, and so it would make no contribution to herd immunity as Young had said).] [ The ''Telegraph'' deleted the article from its website and it emerged that Toby Young had deleted many of his tweets about the Covid-19 pandemic.] [
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.
In 1997, Young met Caroline Bondy while living in New York. 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. Young and Bondy were engaged in 2000 and married a year later. They have four children.
Young has admitted using illegal drugs – specifically taking cocaine at the Groucho Club in central London,
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 1997 photo shoot for ''Vanity Fair''. Such activities are against Club rules.
On social media
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 remained as at January 2018.
These included what an ''Evening Standard'' editorial called "an obsession with commenting on the anatomy of women in the public eye". 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".] Other remarks included slurs described as homophobic, including a claim that George Clooney is "as queer as a coot".
One tweet by Young was in response to a BBC Comic Relief appeal in 2009 for starving Kenyan children. 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 wanked so much in ages". He has expressed remorse for his "politically incorrect" tweets.
Young is reported to have edited his own Wikipedia page 282 times in the decade to January 2018. In October 2020, he wrote an article in ''The Spectator'' criticising "lazy journalists or whomWikipedia is the only thing they read when ‘researching’ an article" and claiming that "Wikipedia has a strong left-wing bias — which might explain why the page about me reads as if it’s been written by Owen Jones."
in ''The Spectator''.
Category:Alumni of Brasenose College, Oxford
Category:Alumni of Trinity College, Cambridge
Category:British educational theorists
Category:British male journalists
Category:British theatre critics
Category:Conservative Party (UK) people
Category:Founders of English schools and colleges
Category:New York Press people
Category:People educated at Fortismere School
Category:People educated at William Ellis School
Category:The Spectator editors
Category:Younger sons of barons