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.’
Yesterday, leading Conservatives rightly ask what they can do to reconnect to modern Britain. Today, these bigoted remarks from the man they bizarrely appointed to advise them on housing. How can Downing Street possibly keep Roger Scruton as a government adviser? https://t.co/MCSrUSW456— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) April 10, 2019