To tweet, or not to tweet – that is the question for anyone participating in this, the narcissistic age of entitlement; and the question for anyone following the Toby Young saga. Self-publicists should forget any idea of a safe, grey area in between.
So Young, to his cost, has already found. He will find, too, that all attempts to refute the Trump-type caricature now pinned on him are in vain. He must be regretting his past uninhibited enthusiasm for the medium, as must many other (safe for how long?) political operators and aspirants whose desire for acknowledgement, notice and career advancement has tempted them into that dangerous territory where private thoughts are turned into spontaneous public expression.
How many of them, I wonder, will be busy deleting their earlier messaging, or worrying whether their addiction to attention is as likely to put paid to their prospects, or kibosh their career, as to build it – what might come back to haunt them, and when?
It’s perhaps not as curious as it seems that the disinhibition and self-indulgence of tweeters is only matched by the censoriousness of a growing army of self-appointed censors, 21st century middle-class sans culottes, many of them avid tweeters themselves.
This is the ‘unaccountable, intolerant middle-class mob’ as described by Brendan O’Neill, which is now wielding ‘extraordinary influence over public life, [and] which are a far greater menace to reason and fairness than Young ever could be ’.
Mrs May is no match for them. Unless she decides to takes on the blame culture, which she has already effectively endorsed, the current Conservative purge is set to continue. Her Cabinet Ministers may prove forever expendable.
And yes, it has more than ‘a whiff of the Stasi’ about it. Take the Labour MP Dawn Butler on yesterday’s BBC R4 Today, riding high on having hounded Young out of his appointment, shamelessly continuing her ‘virtue and terror’ tactics that the BBC happily took in their stride without comment. Jo Johnson should be less happy. Her finger was pointing at him – for the temerity of sitting on the Parliamentary benches in her eyeline. Knowing him to be the brother of Boris was really quite offensive to her and, in the context of her comment, sufficient to render him unfit for office. North Korea (where unsuspecting relatives are banged up for life in concentration camps alongside the accused) here we come. Appeasing Conservatives be warned. You won’t be spared.
The stench of hypocrisy is overpowering. As Daniel Hannan tweeted: ‘So, according to Twitter, making an off-colour joke years ago disqualifies you from serving on a quango. Supporting Hezbollah, the Soviet Union and the IRA qualifies you to be prime minister.’
Yet I am afraid cannot get worked up on Mr Young’s behalf – either about his entirely predictable promotion to a new arm of the quangocracy or his subsequent resignation from this unnecessary State money-waster.
He is no martyr to a cause. I carried no torch for him even before his injudicious tweeting came to light. Like Janice Turner, I didn’t believe that Toby Young was a conservative – with a small c – in the first place.
Like Lord Adonis, he’s been a paid-up member of the educational technocracy that grew out of and has thrived off the abandonment of truly liberal education, and which continues to stifle the possibility of its return.
The closing of the British mind as a result is as much a function of this repeated Conservative capitulation to socialist equality and social mobility agendas as declining educational standards are a result of it.
Whatever Toby Young’s motivation for setting up his own Free School he, along with Michael Gove, missed their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to challenge the egalitarian agenda imposed on schools ever since Anthony Crosland and Shirley Williams (education ministers in Wilson’s 1964 -70 Labour Governments) set out to destroy the grammar schools – the point at which the real goal of education (which is education) was confiscated and since when schools have been viewed not as organisations for the transmission of knowledge but as instruments of social engineering.
Instead Michael Gove (and his Leftist-surrendering government) committed schools to becoming the very engine of social mobility.
My point is not just the sheer futility of the social mobility mission hurting most those it tries to help by closing opportunities rather than opening them. (And no, Free Schools have not opened opportunities in any way comparable to grammar schools. Contingent on the State’s say-so and money, they are neither free to select nor to compete for academic or any other excellence.)
It is that the abandonment of liberal education to socialism’s resentment-based ideology is exactly what has opened the door to today’s moral relativism and intolerance. This is what has led to democracy’s decline from mass rule to mob rule – to an informer-style society that, in its desire to control the people in the name of equality, expresses exactly that contempt for human freedom which was once thought to be the preserve of the pre-glasnost USSR and its satellites.
The simple fact is that Toby Young is a victim of an education corruption that he’s failed to comprehend. That is the real issue for debate. And that is what he needs to grasp now if, as he says, education is the passion he plans to pursue.
Were he to take up the cudgels for education as a goal in and of itself, he could yet become a conservative radical to equal his Open University-founding socialist father. He’d kill two birds with one stone – helping the poor and disadvantaged by challenging the very education ideology that limits them and has bred the intolerance of which he’s the latest victim.