Toby young

The Covid dissidents who’ve made my Christmas merrier

A few years back, a hackneyed journalistic come-hither led me to a sober reckoning: would I write about someone alive today whom I especially admire? I couldn’t think of anyone I held in high esteem who wasn’t dead. Either I was surrounded by mediocrities, or I was an ungenerous, withholding jerk. I’m pleased to discover that these days I admire a host of folks who aren’t dead. Some are colleagues or acquaintances; others I’ve never met. While they don’t all embrace the same catechism, they’ve one thing in common: they depart from establishment orthodoxy on Covid-19. What they share, then, is an anti-catechism. I’ve been vocal about my dismay over

Why conservatives can’t survive in government

I had mixed feelings about the sacking of Roger Scruton from the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, following comments he made to the New Statesman. On the one hand it was utterly shameful and gutless on the part of the government, although no worse than one has come to expect from members of a party that is conservative in name only. On the other hand, I have never been a huge admirer of Roger’s aesthetic sensibilities, no matter how eloquently they are expressed. He seems to have no time for anything which has happened since about 1738. I can’t be exactly sure what he had in mind for our

Toby Young

No, I’ve no idea what’s going on in Game of Thrones either

By the time you read this, James Delingpole and I will have made our first podcast in 596 days. That’s the length of time that elapsed between the last episode of Game of Thrones and the new one broadcast on Monday night. Yes, that’s right, we have our very own Thronecast in which we dissect every instalment of the long-running saga. This isn’t exactly original. Every self-respecting broadcaster has a Thronecast these days. There’s even a Thronecast Shopping Network where you can buy miniature iron thrones for your mantelpiece. Although why anyone would want to is a mystery. The era when the series enjoyed cult status is long gone. Last

The power of the 0.1 per cent

I once asked Michael Gove, when he had just been appointed Education Secretary, if he would mind awfully appointing me as chairman of Ofsted: I had one or two vigorous ideas, such as reversing the grades awarded to schools for ‘cultural diversity’ so that they more closely represented what the overwhelming majority of parents actually think. Michael smiled politely and walked away, which I took as a definite indication of assent. Frankly, I will never forgive the treachery. Gove handed out the job to someone who went native almost immediately, became subsumed by the Blob. Serves him right. I assume Gove, in a cowardly manner, was worried by the possible

Portrait of the week | 11 January 2018

Home Theresa May, the Prime Minister, tried to shuffle her cabinet, but Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, refused to become Business Secretary and stayed put with the words ‘Social Care’ added to his title. Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, had ‘Housing’ tacked on to his. Justine Greening spent three hours with Mrs May and emerged without her job as Education Secretary, having turned down Work and Pensions, which went to Esther McVey. David Lidington was made Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, taking over tasks that had been performed by Damian Green, and was replaced as the sixth Justice Secretary in six years by David Gauke, the first solicitor to

Letters | 11 January 2018

Long lives and pension pots Sir: Jon Moynihan is too optimistic about the prospects for further increasing life expectancy, and too gloomy about those of the pensions industry (‘Falling Short’, 6 January). The wondrous advancements of medical science have offered little to solve the most pervasive problem we now face: declining mental health. It seems unlikely that society will chose to invest endlessly in repairing bodies to extend lifespans, when the minds relating to those bodies have already been lost. So the viability of pension providers is not as parlous as suggested. Indeed, many current fund deficits derive from the low investment yield environment that central bankers have engineered but which

Letters | 15 September 2016

What immigration debate? Sir: Henrik Jonsson says (Letters, 10 September) that Swedes ought to learn from the Brits how to maintain a broad and dynamic public debate. I can’t say I witnessed anything approximating public debate on the topic of immigration during the referendum, when the debate was carried out through the ballot box, not in reasonable parliamentary discussion. What we need is for more senior politicians to be willing to engage in public discourse and take a non-careerist approach. Too many leaders have thought it best to avoid this toxic issue rather than risk their positions. As Enoch Powell once described the typical politicians’ view on immigration, ‘It’s better for

Letters | 5 November 2015

The power of creativity Sir: A rounded education should encourage creativity as well as maths, English, science and history if Britain is to compete in the modern world. Toby Young’s claim that the arts world is exaggerating the decline of arts in secondary schools therefore deserves to be challenged (Status anxiety, 24 October). In spite of his confidence, teachers do think that there is a problem. They fear that the focus on ‘core’ subjects means they shouldn’t offer arts subjects. Students worry that studying the arts will damage an academic profile. But encouraging creativity makes people more adaptable, and helps prepare them for the uncertainties of life. The new head

The green ink brigade is now running the show

Daily they drop into my email account — alongside the more obviously useful stuff about how I might elongate my penis or ensure it performs with greater fortitude than at present, and the charitable offers from women who live ‘nearby your house, Roderick’ and apparently wish to test whether or not those previous solicitations I mentioned have been acceded to with success. Alongside all that stuff are the fecund exhortations from a bunch of online campaigning organisations. Click democracy, a sort of spastic form of activism whereby you stick it to da man simply by pressing a button. They come, these missives, from the likes of and 38 Degrees. Sometimes

Letters | 3 September 2015

Suicide and assisted dying Sir: As a mental health practitioner, I am grateful to Douglas Murray (‘Death watch’, 29 August) for his incisive commentary on the impact of legalised euthanasia on people with psychiatric conditions. Supporters of assisted dying argue that a permissive act would be tightly framed, but the scope would inevitably widen, as has occurred in Holland. Although Lord Falconer and fellow travellers would bar people of unsound mind from the intended provision, this would soon be challenged as discriminatory: because effectively, a person would be punished for losing decision-making capacity. If proponents of euthanasia are really so rational, while their opponents are blinded by emotion or faith, how

Peru’s Indians are repressed with more efficiency than blacks ever were in South Africa

In The Spectator of 21 March a column by Toby Young caught my eye. Discussing the pros and cons of selective schools, Toby found it hard to reach an emphatic conclusion; and for what it’s worth I find it hard too — but, then again, what do I know? It was his international comparisons that engaged me. It was not the point he was trying to make, but Toby quoted a statistic which speaks volumes about the continuing oppression of the indigenous peoples of South America. In educational attainment tests, Peru has the world’s worst ‘variance’ explicable by the children’s backgrounds, or so the OECD have found. ‘Variance’ means departure

Spectator letters: Press regulation, heroic Bulgarians and the case for Scotch on the rocks

Beyond the law Sir: In your leading article of 28 June you make the point that the hacking trial demonstrates why political oversight of press regulation, not press regulation by politicians, would be an unnecessary ‘draconian step’ because ‘hacking is already against the law’. Later you compare the illegal but honourable behaviour of Andy Coulson with that of Damian McBride, who ‘broke no law but behaved criminally’. In doing so you weaken the earlier argument. Regulation of the press should not solely be focused on illegal activity; rather it is to ensure that the press does not behave in a way analogous to that you criticise McBride for. In the

How can I write like that about my family? Easy. My wife isn’t reading

People often ask how I get away with writing about my wife so often. Doesn’t Caroline mind being cast as the matronly foil to my errant schoolboy? I’d love to say that she perches on my shoulder, chortling with pleasure as she vets every word, but the truth is she never bothers to read any of my stuff. That’s how I get away with it. The same is also true of my children, which is just as well considering the things I write about them. In last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph, for instance, I wrote a 1,600-word essay about why men with demanding jobs are less likely to complain about their

Margaret Thatcher vs the intelligentsia

On a warm summer evening in 1986, the crème-de-la-crème of London’s literary establishment met at Antonia Fraser’s house in Holland Park to discuss how they could bring about the downfall of Margaret Thatcher. Among their number were Harold Pinter, Ian McEwan, John Mortimer, David Hare, Margaret Drabble, Michael Holroyd, Angela Carter and Salman Rushdie, who referred to Thatcher in The Satanic Verses as ‘Mrs Torture’. With characteristic lack of modesty, they called themselves the 20 June Group — a reference to the plot to assassinate Hitler that was hatched on 20 July 1944. ‘We have a precise agenda and we’re going to meet again and again until they break all

What is this word?

‘What are you writing?’ I asked my nine-year-old daughter as she sat at the kitchen table doing her homework. ‘A recount,’ she said. ‘What’s a recount?’ She looked at me with utter disdain. ‘Duh! A recount.’ I calmly explained that you could recount an event in a piece of writing, but that didn’t make what you’d written a ‘recount’. The only sense in which you can use ‘recount’ as a noun is when referring to the act of recounting something. ‘What’s this then?’ she said, waving a piece of paper in my face. Sure enough, the exercise she’d been given by her teacher was to write a ‘recount’ of something

Memo for Prince Alwaweed bin Talal – here’s how you handle Forbes

I feel a twinge of pity for Prince Alwaleed bin Talal — and it’s not often you can say that about a billionaire Saudi businessman. According to Forbes, he’s worth $20 billion, making him the 26th richest man in the world. But is he? The prince has disputed this estimate of his net worth, claiming the true figure is $29.6 billion. That would place him in the world’s top ten. The reason I feel sorry for him is not because his wealth may have been underestimated, obviously. Rather, it’s because Forbes has made him the subject of a pitiless hatchet job in the current issue, ridiculing him for trying to

Letters | 28 February 2013

Healing the world Sir: We most warmly commend the courage of Professor Meirion Thomas (‘The next NHS scandal’, 23 February) in lifting the lid on the appalling abuse of the NHS by foreign visitors. It has been going on for years but has been covered up by the culture of fear that has pervaded that organisation. We stand ready to support the professor in parliament if that should prove necessary. Regrettably, the present position is even worse than he described. The relevant quango (the Primary Care Commissioning group) issued instructions last July that GPs must accept an application for registration from any foreign visitor who is here for more than