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Government faces growing calls to sack Roger Scruton from ‘beauty’ watchdog

Roger scruton shutterstock 1098445052

Labour MPs are calling for Roger Scruton to be sacked from his newly appointed role as chair of a housing commission over controversial statements about Jewish people and homosexuality 

Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne and backbenchers Wes Streeting and Luciana Berger have urged housing secretary James Brokenshire to remove Scruton from his post as head of the new Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, announced on Saturday (3 November).

The calls come after a blog unearthed an essay by Scruton, a conservative philosopher, in which he described Jews as forming part of a ‘Soros empire’.

’Many of the Budapest intelligentsia are Jewish, and form part of the extensive networks around the Soros Empire,’ it read.

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has run campaigns on the supposed threat that George Soros, a Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire, poses to the country. Last month the Soros-founded Central European University said it might have to relocate from Hungary following Orbán’s attacks.

But Scruton’s text also acknowledged that antisemitism was a problem in modern Hungary. It read: ‘Moreover, as the world knows, indigenous antisemitism still plays a part in Hungarian society and politics, and presents an obstacle to the emergence of a shared national loyalty among ethnic Hungarians and Jews.’

Even so, MPs said the government still had questions to answer over his appointment, with Berger, who is herself Jewish, calling for Brokenshire to ‘reconsider’.

‘An individual who peddles antisemitic conspiracy theories has no place advising government about anything,’ she tweeted.

Streeting tweeted that Brokenshire ‘must surely now realise that he has made a terrible error of judgement in appointing Roger Scruton to a government post’, adding: ‘He must dismiss him immediately.’

Concerns have also been raised over Scruton’s comments on homosexuality, which he described in a 2007 Telegraph article about gay adoption as ‘not normal’.

He wrote: ‘Every now and then, we wake up to the fact that although homosexuality has been normalised, it is not normal. Our acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, of same-sex couples, and of the gay scene has not eliminated our sense that these are alternatives to something and that it is the other thing that is normal.’

It has also been reported that Scruton had previously described Islamophobia as a ‘propaganda word’ in his 2017 book Conservatism: Ideas in Profile.

Scruton wrote: ‘There has been in official circles a deliberate silencing of discussion, a refusal to describe things by their proper names, and the adoption of the propaganda-word ‘Islamophobia’ to create a wholly imaginary enemy.’

In a statement, Scruton rejected accusations of antisemitism and said he was ‘hurt and offended’.

He added: ‘If people actually read my comments regarding the interplay between George Soros and Hungary they will realise they are not in any way antisemitic, indeed quite the opposite.’


Readers' comments (8)

  • Quietly dispense with the lot of them, from Brokenshire downwards, before they make fools of themselves, and us? And spend money on lunches and factfinding trips to exotic locations, with partners and other lackeys.

    Expenses: BA business class? £500/hr? 5 star hotel? Minibar? Netflix? Swimming pool and Jacuzzi? Building beautiful! Bill enormous.

    Report: April 1, 2020. Top line only. Appearance on Newsnight with Kirsty, Richard and Norman.

    I recommend the Hilton in Budapest.

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  • Aim for St Stephen’s Day in Budapest, when goose is on the menu. Scrap the whole BBBBC thing quickly...it is an insulting and hypocritical embarrassment and will achieve nothing at great public expense. The first thing Jeremy Hunt did as culture secretary in 2010 was to pull funding for CABE, which was doing a good job of reviewing school designs (technically), under the aegis of Paul Finch. After the Edinburgh schools structural collapses and Grenfell, we desperately need to ensure technical and regulatory quality. This is about building procurement methods, building regulations and design and construction quality (ie CoW for latter). Renationalising the Building Research Establishment (BRE) would be a good start.

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  • It’s a start Martin? Dispensing with CABE was an obvious mistake? ARB is superfluous if the RIBA was allowed to regulate and educate the profession? Not sure if re nationalising BRE would help. The TRRL was hopeless before they privatised it. Privatised Buildings Regulation was much easier to work with, but did they take their eyes off the complexity and inadequacy of the Part B regs? So, the tragedies at Lakmal and Grenfell?

    How about an informal meeting with Mr Finch? And other interested and qualified parties? (No philosophers or politicians?!) Beauty, cabbages and Kings on the menu. Max 12 in the room. Any larger and it would be called an RIBA talking shop.

    So where and when shall we 3 meet? I assume you are based in London? Working? The AJ’s offices were fab until they were sold off by others. You say. Split the bill.

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  • Martin,

    I hope you are picking this up? I am serous, and I’m sure we could move things in the right direction. There is a small clique of contributors to this site that would have something to say. Some of whom I’ve worked with. Some of whom I’d liked to have worked with!

    I’m willing to let my email address be used by all to set this up, as it’s the AJ.


    Drop me a line?

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  • Bruce Buckland

    The full quote from Sir Roger's piece, for those who actually care about accuracy:

    “Many of the Budapest intelligentsia are Jewish, and form part of the extensive networks around the Soros Empire. People in these networks include many who are rightly suspicious of nationalism, regard nationalism as the major cause of the tragedy of Central Europe in the 20th century, and do not distinguish nationalism from the kind of national loyalty that I have defended in this talk. Moreover, as the world knows, indigenous anti-Semitism still plays a part in Hungarian society and politics, and presents an obstacle to the emergence of a shared national loyalty among ethnic Hungarians and Jews.”

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  • This string of comments illustrates so much about what is right and wrong with intellectual discourse in the age of the Internet. It is so easy to make a derisory or cynical comment without a real understanding, a la Trump.

    It would be interesting to hear what Professor Scruton has to say without taking his many words out of context, and if he has anything helpful to contribute. He should be free to say what he thinks, even if it is unfashionable. Architects do not know everything? And MPs are not stupid. Do other countries organise organise these things better?

    The environmental organisations involved need finessing to be more effective. But who is qualified to carry this out? A committee? A Czar? A Professor? A builder? Art historian? Or just get on with it?! Well known or Anonymous.

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  • David, I am happy to meet but I am not sure what the objective is? I have already contributed a great deal to the design quality debate since about 2002. I was in the privilege position of reviewing traditionally procured schools and comparing them to PFI ones, over several years. There were a number of compliance and design issues in the latter, or a 'quality gap' as we called it. I believe the PFI flaw has contributed to recent events.

    I developed an approach called the Design Quality Method (DQM) to conduct post occupancy reviews over a representative sample of the entire UK schools estate (for the Audit Commission; Northern Ireland Audit Office; and Audit Scotland). The approach was later extended to hospitals, colleges and prisons. It is an extensive body of tacit and explicit knowledge. All of the auditors' reports are out there in the public domain.

    Some of this feedback was fed into the CABE Schools Design Review Panel, which I contributed to from 2007-10. It was clear that there was a problem with PFI compared to traditional procurement routes—there was always a 'quality gap'. It's too simplistic to put this down to the profit motive, as it is a combination of toxic politics, deregulation and privatisation. Not to mention the marginalisation of architects and omission of clerks of works. We are now reaping what was sown.

    I will drop you a line with some further information.

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  • Martin

    Great! I too worked on PFI schools. New build and London Board School modernisations, including one in Whitechapel that my grandmother attended from 1895-1900!

    I had worked on Design Build, Building the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone, that worked as long as you were making money for the builders? It went pear shaped when you lost their trust! Wimpeys were great for Eurotunnel. Skanska not so for Oak Park School, Redbridge. BDP carried more weight than WGI? The client/planners/LA can help or hinder too.

    Every design contract has its flaws! GOSH was rewarding but flawed, T5 at Heathrow had it’s moments?! I built my current house with a Portuguese builder and no contract, and we are still friends. It would be interesting to meet and compare notes, if only to help future progress on what we face now. Housing crisis. Brexit. Parliament rebuild. Global warming. The last 45 years will seem a doddle?!

    I am open to any communications by anyone. By email? David

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