It's funny. I'm often forced to reflect on the ways I've adversely affected my own performing career through political writing in recent years, and my inclination for rather frank discussion. I couldn't even hazard a guess how many hours I've worried myself silly, thinking about the people I've alienated, how many friends have turned their back, or the number of doors that have slammed shut because of it. It keeps me awake at night; I live with that legacy every day.
Which is why I am so utterly confounded and bemused, so entirely outraged, that concurrently individuals like Toby Young - the new Tory 'minister for universities' - experience literally the exact opposite.
Frogmarched out the door
I was physically sacked in mid 2017 by an organisation called 'Rock Choir' as a choir leader, the instant they found out about my writing and political activism - more specifically, my left-wing activism and support for Jeremy Corbyn. No exaggeration to say I was literally frogmarched out the door without any justification, or even an opportunity to protest. And all because the night before, at the end of an unpaid training week, I'd suggested I use a different name for my work with them - so not to cause the company any unwanted complications with my writing for Evolve Politics at the time. I was trying to be pragmatic, and to do the right thing!
At that stage their CEO, Caroline Redman Lusher, and/or Rock Choir's leadership team went away and checked out my online material. I was let go within fifteen minutes of arriving the next morning, no reason given other than "I was not the sort of person they wanted working for them".
Then the company had the gall to threaten me with legal action, should I dare to speak out about their treatment of me, or report/speculate why they literally sacked me overnight. They warned they would be 'monitoring me' (quote). Sadly I don't generally respond well to threats and intimidation. My late mum brought me up to believe you should never fear telling the truth, and that's the mantra I live by.
So if anyone from Rock Choir is reading this, tough titty: your company's conduct was nothing short of disgusting; I'm not afraid to say it.
Worse still, they're the tip of the iceberg in Britain today. The year before that, after leaving Aussie Floyd, I went to work for a year in the car industry. And if you wanna learn firsthand a thing or two about exploitation, and working like a slave on minimum wage for horrid and often quite ignorant/bigoted people, I highly recommend it.
One rule for some
But let alone having their careers negatively affected by controversial (and arguably distasteful) opinions they've aired in the public sphere, commentators like Toby Young actively go from strength to strength. They're now, albeit incomprehensibly, being appointed to government.
The difference? They're supported and backed by the right people.
Even when they've said things so horrid, infantile and outlandish... things that would never even occur to a horrible, supposedly 'militant leftie' (like me) to say in a public space. Things like this:
That is the Tories' new minister for universities, Britain. Breathe a deep breath of pride.
There's a veritable treasure trove of this stuff out there; not a flash in the pan. Toby Young has been playing to the misogynistic 'moneyed boys club' for quite some time. Years in fact. He's a younger, balder, Nigel Farage.
We've already seen the repercussions in America of politicians who believe that sort of sordid and disrespectful 'locker-room talk' is acceptable, and even desirable. I'm sure Toby would get on very well with President Trump. They'd no doubt enjoy grabbing pussies together. And sadly, Young's appointment is unequivocally a symptom of this Anglo-American 'alignment' of right-wing values we're currently experiencing in Britain. Eg: it's okay to be a vile bigoted thug espousing divisive and repellent things, as long as you're conceived to stand for the right demographic (no pun intended).
But of all departments, to assign such a misogynistic and odious thug (albeit one with a degree and a posh accent) to effectually represent Britain's universities: the revered institutions of learning and culture that truly once made Britain great?? Well...it's just an insult. And given the recent assault on Britain's higher education institutions by The Daily Mail and other right-wing entities, simply for challenging the Tory coup that is Brexit Britain, we should all be really rather concerned.
It's barely a stretch to now foresee this Tory government appointing Katie Hopkins as minister for journalism, Tommy Robinson as minister for Islamic relations, or Gary Glitter as minister for schools.
Tip of the iceberg
Maybe we could forgive Toby Young for acting like a teenage boy discovering his first boner, if the ideals and 'virtues' he stood for were nobler and more responsible. Sadly, the truth could not be any more different. He is a veritable beacon and neon-flashing warning sign as to the type of people we are allowing governance of Britain today.
The fact he was appointed on the very first day of 2018 (perhaps the Tories hoped Britain was hungover and would fail to notice), could hardly be a more depressing omen.
Let's start off with the fact he's grotesquely ill-qualified. He literally knows nothing and has no experience of working in education. He's a journalist, or rather, to coin the description by Lynn Barber writing for The Guardian in 2006:
"a shameless publicist the world loves to loathe, who crashed and burned as a New York journalist, a London playwright and a Hollywood screenwriter."
I won't simply repeat everything that's already been reported by left-wing press (eg: independent online publications mostly). Tom Pride has done a lot of the work for me, if you'd like to cross-reference.
But suffice to say Toby Young - the new minister for universities - did not get into Oxbridge on merit, but instead because his family were well-off and moved in the right circles. They were able to manipulate (eg: bribe) the system. He then later made outlandish comments that 'working class' students who got into Oxbridge on actual merit, were 'ugly' and effectively 'lowered the tone'.
Bad enough? Nope. He's also actively argued that making provisions for disabled students in schools is "ghastly political correctness", and openly suggested that a student with physical impairments will also likely have an impaired mind. Ergo, they are holding back the development of other more 'worthwhile' students.
Yeah... go fuck yourself Stephen Hawking.
Viable use of resources
Young's task bequeathed by the Tories is to turn Britain's universities into a soulless cash-making machine. As we know, disabled people usually need society's help and support - they're not generally a cash-cow to be exploited, so it's hardly surprising he doesn't see them as a viable use of resources.
In fact, what Young really prides himself as supporting is 'progressive eugenics'. The definition of which is "the selection of desired heritable characteristics in order to improve future generations, typically in reference to humans".
If that doesn't send a cold shiver up your spine, allow me to explain why it should. The last government that openly and unapologetically supported theories of 'eugenics' was a little known group called 'the Nazis'. In fact, Hitler's book Mein Kampf - 'my struggle' - was in part his accounting for how and why eugenics should be incorporated into Germany. His dream of a perfect Aryan 'master-race', and by implication, how we should go about removing all those who don't make the grade - a process later referred to as 'the Final Solution'.
The same 'Final Solution' that killed off my own father's family, because they were 'undesirable' Jews living in 1930s Austria. So you know what? I'll be damned if I'll stand by and say nothing, watching the beginnings of this play out in Britain. I don't frickin' care how many jobs or prospects I lose in the process.
A nation does not turn to fascism overnight; it happens in stages - a palatable chunk at a time. A population that didn't challenge the last 'small change of policy' is very unlikely to challenge the next one... or the next, or the next. It's how Nazi Germany went from mere 'self-determination' to gas chambers, all in the space of a decade.
Toby Young is a big chunk. If we swallow this, God knows what's coming next. But one such eventuality I do sadly hypothesise is the fall of the NHS in Britain: something that will kill millions of people long term, and force countless more into poverty over generations.
But hey...that's just part of the 'eugenic' theory of 'natural selection', isn't it? Survival of the fittest. Or the richest, at any rate. Pieces of a puzzle.
Men and women of my country. Please please wake the hell up to what's going on, before it's too late.
Oh, and Happy New Year.