Labour calls for government to fire Toby Young over ‘misogyny and homophobia’

Labour has called for Theresa May to fire a senior appointment to the board of the new universities regulator over a history of “homophobia and misogyny”.

Right-wing Spectator columnist and enthusiastic conservative supporter Toby Young has been appointed to the new Office for Students.

The new body will have powers to fine and sanction universities if they prevent events from going ahead due to controversial speakers, such as hosting anti-trans author Germaine Greer.

The partisan appointment has riled many student activists, who also questioned the lack of representation for student advocates on the new body.

Toby Young

It has since emerged that Mr Young posted a string of homophobic comments online, alongside numerous remarks considered insulting to women, disabled people and working class students.

In a 2010 message Mr Young branded George Clooney “queer as a coot”, while he responded to a male user on another occasion with the retort, “F**k you, penis breath”

LBC presenter James O’Brien reposted some of the obscene messages sent by Young.

On another occasion, referring to a picture of himself with a woman, he quipped: “Actually, mate, I had my dick up her arse”.

Now Labour has told the Independent that Mr Young’s comments about women were evidence of “misogyny” and made him an inappropriate person for a government role.

Dawn Butler, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, called on Ms May to sack Mr Young over the tweets.

She said: “By any measure, this is a shocking appointment by the Prime Minister.

“These comments show that Toby Young is completely unsuitable for this role.

“If she fails to rethink this appointment, the message Theresa May is sending to students is that under the Tories, misogyny and homophobia will not just be tolerated but rewarded.”

Mr Young appears to have since deleted the messages along with other profane comments.

But an article called ‘I was a Lesbian for a Night’, published in 2004, remains on his blog.

Mr Young told PinkNews was “a humour piece written for a New York men’s magazine”, recalls an occasion on which Mr Young dressed up as a woman in a bid to get into bed with lesbians.

He wrote: “As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a lesbian. I admit it’s a strange ambition.

“If I like women, what’s wrong with being a straight man? Two words: Pillow fight. Most men fantasize about spying on lesbians; I want to be one. So I became one.

“With the help of a crack special effects team I disguised myself as a woman and embarked on a whistlestop tour of New York’s hottest lesbian clubs.

“The plan was to approach gorgeous young lesbians, draw them into my confidence, then make out with them on the dance floor.”

He added: “The first stop was Ruby Fruit on Hudson Street. The women in Ruby Fruit are not what you’d call lipstick lesbians. They’re hard-core dykes.”

Mr Young defended the piece, telling PinkNews: “That was a humour piece written for a New York men’s magazine 14 years ago in which I dressed up as a woman for the evening and tried to pick up a ‘lipstick lesbian’.

“If you read the whole thing, you’ll see that I present the women I encountered in New York’s gay bars as strong and level-headed and far too sensible to be show any interest in me. I was the butt of the joke throughout.”

Mr Young told PinkNews that he is “a strong supporter of gay rights and have often defended them publicly”.

Mr Young praised Prime Minister David Cameron for introducing same-sex marriage in a Twitter post.

The body that Mr Young will play a key role in, the Office for Students, will be responsible for enforcing ‘free speech’ at universities amid battles over hate speech policies.

Universities minister Jo Johnson has handed the body powers to fine and sanction universities if they prevent events from going ahead due to controversial speakers.

He said: “The Office for Students will have a range of remedies at its disposal which do include fines at the more extreme end of the spectrum. I think it is important that we look at the cases mentioned.

“These are speakers who have been potentially banned or harried under no-platforming or safe spaces decisions. On all reasonable definitions, they are advocates of openness and liberal values and should be welcomed on our campuses.”

Johnson also claimed that some universities had lists of “trigger words” which were used to determine whether speakers could appear and whether books should appear in libraries.

The minister singled out controversies over speakers with anti-LGBT views, including author Germaine Greer.

The feminist author has faced protests at events for her avowedly anti-trans beliefs, having called for women’s colleges to eject transgender students.

Greer claimed last year: “Just because you lop off your d**k and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a f***ing woman”.

Speaking to The Times back in October, Johnson said new rules were needed and branded it “preposterous” to ban Greer from speaking – though PinkNews is not aware of any occasions on which she has been actively banned from doing so by a University.