Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
10 April 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 1:32pm

James Brokenshire sacks Roger Scruton as government housing tsar

By Patrick Maguire

The philosopher Roger Scruton has been sacked as the government’s housing tsar over comments made about the Hungarian philanthropist George Soros, Chinese people and Muslims in an interview with the New Statesman

Scruton, whose five-month tenure as chair of the Ministry of Housing’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission was marred by controversy, was sacked by Housing Secretary James Brokenshire this afternoon. 

In an interview with NS deputy editor George Eaton, Scruton had argued that “anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts”, claimed Hungary had been subject to a “sudden invasion of huge tribes of Muslims from the Middle East”, repeated his claim that Islamophobia was a propaganda word “invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue”.

He also said of the Chinese government: ““They’re creating robots out of their own people… each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”

Labour, Conservative MPs and the former chancellor George Osborne all called for Scruton to be sacked after the interview’s publication this morning.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A weekly round-up of The New Statesman's climate, environment and sustainability content. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Announcing Scruton’s dismissal this afternoon, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the remarks were unacceptable. “Professor Sir Roger Scruton has been dismissed as Chairman of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission with immediate effect, following his unacceptable comments,” they said. “A new chair will be appointed by the Secretary of State, to take this important work forward, in due course.”

A Downing Street spokesperson added that the comments were “deeply offensive and completely unacceptable”.

His appointment to his unpaid government role last November was almost immediately met by calls for his sacking after it was revealed he had described homosexuality as “not normal” and claimed there was no such crime as date rape. A 2014 lecture in which Scruton described Jewish members of the “Budapest intelligentsia” as “part of the extensive networks around the Soros empire” also provoked controversy.

At the time, Brokenshire offered a robust defence of the appointment on the grounds that Scruton was a “global authority on aesthetics” and “a public intellectual of renown”. He told the Commons: “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 of the kind we have seen over the last few days.”

“It saddens me that his views have been so misrepresented, and his character has been smeared.”

The NS understands, however, that the fact that Scruton’s latest comments were made during his tenure as a government adviser made his position untenable.