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Scruton sacked as chair of beauty watchdog over ‘unacceptable comments’

Roger scruton shutterstock 1098445052
  • 16 Comments

Roger Scruton has been sacked from his role as chair of the government’s Building Better Building Beautiful Commission following controversy over ‘unacceptable’ comments about Islam and Chinese people

The government confirmed this afternoon (10 April) that the traditionalist philosopher had been dismissed from his role as chairman of the beauty watchdog with ’immediate effect’.

It follows criticism of remarks Scruton made in an interview with the New Statesman, in which he repeated controversial views on philanthropist George Soros, who has been attacked by Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orbán.

‘Anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts,’ he said, adding that Hungarians were ‘extremely alarmed by the sudden invasion of huge tribes of Muslims from the Middle East’.

He then said Islamophobia was ‘invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue’.

Commenting in the interview on the rise of China, he said: ’each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing’.

His comments on Islamaphobia were immediately condemned by the Muslim Council of Britain as ‘deeply disturbing’. 

The Council said: ’The normalisation of such Islamophobic ideas, which are used by terrorists, is dangerous, and it is even more worrying that his appointment and views have been previously defended by senior Conservatives, including a government minister.’

Following his comments, the government came under pressure from Tory MPs to sack him from the commission. 

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat told BuzzFeed News: ’Antisemitism sits alongside racism, anti-Islam, homophobia, and sexism as a cretinous and divisive belief that has no place in our public life and particularly not in government.’

Scruton has faced calls for his sacking before when a video emerged of a public speech in 2005 in which he said there was no such crime as date rape and described sexual harassment as merely ‘sexual advances made by the unattractive’. He had also written that gay adoption was ‘not normal’.

However, he was defended by the housing secretary, James Brokenshire, who at the time said he was the ‘right man for the job’ and that has character had been ‘smeared’.

’I have to say it saddens me that someone who has done so much to champion freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be subject to misinformed ill-judged and very personal attacks’, he said.

AHMM’s Paul Monaghan, architect and specialist adviser to the commission, said he was sorry to hear of Scruton’s dismissal, but had not read the New Statesman article.

‘The research part of the commission’s work was going well and a wide range of views had been harnessed by Roger,’ he said. ‘I think the Commission’s report was due towards the end of the year and I guess that it’s still possible to hit that deadline.’

Monaghan said he had met with Scruton and others involved in the commission’s work only last week – the fourth such meeting.

‘My own experience of Roger was that he was really open to suggestions and would listen to people and was learning about different kinds of architecture. The quality of people on the panel shows that it can improve the quality of the planning process, towns, cities and places.’

Asked if he would like to see an architect appointed as a replacement for Scruton, Monaghan said he’d rather see someone more ‘objective’. ‘Personally I don’t think it should be someone from our world,’ he said.

Fellow specialist advisor to the commission Sunand Prasad, a former RIBA president, called Scruton’s comments ‘shocking’ and said the government had no choice but to sack him.

He said: ‘The work of the Commission has been going very well and [Scruton] has been open and inclusive and has not shown any prejudiced or unreasoned thoughts as far as its work is concerned.

‘I thought hard about joining the commission but it has been very collegiate and structured. It’s been a big and wide-ranging discussion, not just about architecture but about the space between buildings, about economics, land and finance. Roger is a gifted chair. It’s tragic that he has these views.’

A government spokesperson said: ’Professor Sir Roger Scruton has been dismissed as Chairman of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission with immediate effect, following his unacceptable comments.

’A new chair will be appointed by the Secretary of State, to take this important work forward, in due course.’

  • 16 Comments

Readers' comments (16)

  • Looking at the roughly even balance above between the anti bigotry brigade and the pro free speech brigade, the on thing that's certain is that Scruton can count himself among the ranks of truly divisive figures of our time.
    And, surely, a red herring in the context of decent architecture.

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  • Felix Mara

    Democracies require free speech thresholds, but a 1mm step is ample.

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  • Gordon  Gibb

    There are some extreme comments from far right architects above, seen by them as normal and apparently justifiable on the basis of a nonsense argument about free speech. It saddens me how much this country has lurched to the right in recent years, as normalised by this nasty Tory government. It is also depressing that the comments above, not in accordance with our code of conduct, are aired by those who think themselves professional. You people really do need to get an education.

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  • Gordon Gibb far right architects? Give me a break there are people expressing there opinions on a subject matter.

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  • In addition to the poinsts Atticus raised, the editor of the New Statesman omitted the full context of what Roger Scruton said in the interview. Clearly referring to the Chinese Communist Party Scruton actually said:

    “They’re creating robots out of their own people by so constraining what can be done. Each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”

    That completely changes what he is said to have said, which was an entirely a justifiable statement given the reality of severe and worsening restrictions on freedom of speech,and access to the internet in China.
    Later challenged about the omission, the editor, a typically deceitful extreme left winger, George Eaton, tweeted that he "had to leave the first sentence out of the print edition for reasons of space".

    Yeh, very convincing.

    I thought the creation of this Beauty Watchdog was a strange idea from the beginning and I have no idea what it is supposed to achieve or how, but given that it exists, Scruton should be reinstated immediately and the two weak politically-correct (supposedly conservative) politicians who summarily called for his sacking before hearing Scruton's side of the story, should apologise to him.

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  • '....what it is supposed to achieve....' ?
    Presumably, that the government is 'doing something'.

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