May’s free pass for Young betrays utter weakness ahead of reshuffle

Theresa May’s interview this morning with the BBC’s Andrew Marr contained a number of interesting, if inadvertent revelations.

Her responses to Marr’s tougher than usual probing on the NHS – driven perhaps by his own experience as a stroke victim – gave away the Tories hands-on involvement in the creation of the crisis the NHS is now facing and included May’s admission of her own culpability.

But her comments on the appointment of Toby Young to the board of the new universities regulator were also extremely revealing ahead of her anticipated Cabinet reshuffle tomorrow:

May’s claim that she hadn’t known about Young’s social media history – he was never shy about it – means that she either didn’t know what she should have known, or that she knew and has now been embarrassed into denying it.

But her willingness to dismiss Young’s ‘distasteful’ comments and to ignore the obvious unfitness they reveal for any kind of public office – let alone one involving responsibility for young people and their education – betrays May’s weakness among her colleagues.

A strong PM reacting with genuine distaste to Young’s comments about women, about working class students and about people with special educational needs would immediately rescind his appointment and apologise for the crassness of appointing him in the first place.

But Young has been defended by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, two colleagues she knows are manoeuvring to depose and replace her, and May knows she cannot afford to cross them by dismissing their pet.

In the light of such weakness and cowardice, expect the reshuffle this week to be little more than a PR exercise – plus a likely promotion for Jeremy Hunt for his emaciating of the NHS and his replacement by a woman with very close links to private health.

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