Theresa May warns Toby Young over offensive Twitter posts
Mr Young said all the offending messages dated back at least five years.
Theresa May has warned controversial writer Toby Young he will be sacked from the universities regulator if he makes any more offensive Twitter postings.
The Prime Minister said she had been unaware of Mr Young’s history of crude and sexist comments when he was appointed to the board of the Office for Students (OfS).
But as Labour stepped up calls for him to be dismissed, he received high-profile backing from the editor of The Spectator magazine, for whom he writes a regular column.
Fraser Nelson said that his record as a pioneer of free schools showed that he was the right person to take on vested interests in the higher education system.
Mr Young has faced growing calls to resign over his record of Twitter postings – including multiple references to women’s breasts.
Appearing on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Mrs May said she was “not impressed” by the comments and that any repeat would not be tolerated.
“Toby Young has done exceedingly good work in relation to free schools and that’s what has led to him being appointed to the Office for Students,” she said.
“When he was appointed I was not aware of these comments that he had made. Frankly I’m not at all impressed by those comments.
“He’s now in public office and as far as I’m concerned if he was to continue to use that sort of language and talk in that sort of way he would no longer be in public office.”
For Labour, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said that she should sack him immediately.
“These tweets from Toby Young are disgusting, offensive, sexist. She should show some leadership and she should get rid of him,” he told The Andrew Marr Show.
However Mr Nelson said that Mr Young deserved to be judged by his efforts in more recent years to help others, setting up new schools for disadvantaged children.
While he acknowledged that some of the tweets were “pretty awful”, he said that Mr Young had been the subject of “quite remarkable” efforts to blacken his name since his appointment was announced last week.
Someone who had filled his book, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, with his mistakes and “off-colour jokes” was always going to have a “dozen grim hostages to fortune” in a cache of 40,000 tweets dating back a number of years, he said.
“The Toby Young that I’ve known is motivated by the ability to change the system, for those with enough grit and bloody-mindedness,” Mr Nelson wrote in a blog posting.
“People should be judged by what they do with their lives, not by the worst of their bad jokes.
“And it might drive Toby’s critics mad, but he has done more for others in the last few years than most (of) his critics will do in a lifetime.”