Toby Young (born 17 October 1963) is a British journalist. Young is the author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, the tale of his stint in New York as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine. He served as a judge in seasons five and six of the television show Top Chef and co-founded the West London Free School. He is an advocate of Classical Liberalism.
Born in Buckinghamshire, Young was brought up in Highgate, North London, and in South Devon. His mother Sasha Moorsom was a BBC Radio producer, artist and writer, and his father was Michael, Baron Young of Dartington, a Labour life peer and pioneering sociologist who coined the word "meritocracy". Although entitled to use the style The Hon. Toby Young, he does not.
Young was educated at Creighton School (now Fortismere School), Muswell Hill and King Edward VI Community College, Totnes. He left school at 16 with one Grade C GCE O-Level in English Literature and did menial jobs under a Government Workfare programme. He then retook his O-Levels and went to the Sixth Form of William Ellis School, Highgate, leaving with two Bs and a C at A-Level and managing to obtain a place at Brasenose College, Oxford. Young claims he was sent an acceptance letter by mistake. He had been given a conditional offer of three Bs under a scheme to give access to comprehensive pupils.
He was awarded a First in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and then worked for The Times for a six-month period as a news trainee until he was fired for "hacking the computer system and circulating senior executives' salaries round the office". Young then became a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard University where he was a Teaching Fellow in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. This was followed by a two-year period at Trinity College, Cambridge where he worked as a teaching assistant in the Social and Political Sciences Faculty and carried out research for a doctorate that he did not complete. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the University of Buckingham and a Commissioner of the UK Fulbright Commission.
In 1991, Young co-founded and co-edited the Modern Review with Julie Burchill and her then husband Cosmo Landesman. Its motto was "Low culture for highbrows". Four years later the magazine was close to financial collapse and Young closed it down, angering his principal financial backer Peter York. This decision led to a fierce public battle with Burchill and staff writer Charlotte Raven.
Young moved to New York City shortly afterwards to work for Vanity Fair. After being sacked by Vanity Fair in 1998, he stayed in New York for two more years, working as a columnist for the New York Press, before returning to the UK in 2000.
He is currently an associate editor of The Spectator, where he writes a weekly column, the editor of Spectator Life and a regular contributor to The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. His Telegraph blog was long-listed for the 2012 George Orwell Prize for blogging.
He has performed in the West End stage adaptation of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and in 2005 he co-wrote (with fellow Spectator journalist Lloyd Evans) a sex farce about the David Blunkett/Kimberley Quinn intrigue and the "Sextator" affairs of Boris Johnson and Rod Liddle called Who's the Daddy? It was named as the Best New Comedy at the 2006 Theatregoers' Choice Awards.
From 2002 to 2007, Young wrote a restaurant column for the Evening Standard and later a restaurant column for The Independent on Sunday. In addition to serving as a judge on Top Chef, Young has competed in the Channel 4 TV series Come Dine with Me, appeared as one of the panel of food critics in the 2008 BBC Two series Eating with the Enemy and served as a judge on Hell's Kitchen.
British producer Stephen Woolley and his wife Elizabeth Karlsen produced the film adaptation How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008) in conjunction with FilmFour. Young, who co-produced the film, was played by Simon Pegg. It was released in Britain on 3 October 2008 and reached the number one spot at the box office in its opening week.
Young co-produced and co-wrote When Boris Met Dave (2009), a drama-documentary for Channel 4 about the relationship between Eton and Oxford University contemporaries Mayor Boris Johnson and Conservative Party Leader PM David Cameron. It was first broadcast on More4 on 7 October 2009 and later shown on Channel 4.
In addition to the book How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Young is the author of The Sound of No Hands Clapping (2006), How to Set Up a Free School (2011) and What Every Parent Needs to Know: How to Help Your Child Get the Most Out of Primary School (2014), which he co-wrote with Miranda Thomas.
Young attracted mild controversy in 2012 after he wrote an article criticising the emphasis on "inclusion" in state schools, with some people interpreting this as an attack on including disabled children in mainstream education. He denied this charge, citing a misunderstanding of what he meant by "inclusion".
Young was the lead proposer and co-founder of the West London Free School, the first free school to sign a funding agreement with the Education Secretary, and now serves as the part-time CEO of the charitable trust that sits above the school. (Young resigned as founding chair of the board of the trust on the day he was appointed chief executive but remained a trustee, on the basis that the CEO is ex officio a trustee.) The trust opened a primary school in Hammersmith in 2013, a second primary in Earls Court in 2014 and a third primary in Kensington in 2016. Young is a follower of the American educationalist E.D. Hirsch and an advocate of a traditional, knowledge-based approach to education. In an interview in Schools Week published on 6 May 2016 he said he was planning to stand down as chief executive at the end of this academic year, but would stay on as a trustee.
On 29 October 2016 it was announced that Young had been appointed Director of the New Schools Network, a post he will take up full time in January 2017. The New Schools Network is a charity that was set up in 2009 to support groups setting up free schools.
Young married Caroline Bondy in July 2001; the couple have four children.