Will Roger Scruton be sacked for his comments on date rape?

The conservative philosopher's appointment to a government job is under fire.

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Labour and the Liberal Democrats are piling in on Roger Scruton, the conservative philosopher who has been given an unpaid gig as chair of a new commission on housing and the built environment by James Brokenshire.

In scenes that are more than a little reminiscent of those which saw the last celebrity right-winger appointed to a government post, Toby Young, forced to resign from the board of the Department for Education’s new universities regulator, past comments by Scruton are being cited by opposition MPs as evidence that he is unfit for the role and should go.

Causing particular consternation is a line from a lecture he gave in Hungary, unearthed by the Red Roar website, in which he said: “Many of the Budapest intelligentsia are Jewish, and form part of the extensive networks around the Soros Empire.” Other comments on Islamophobia, a label he has criticised repeatedly in the past, and homosexuality, which he has described as “not normal”, have since been reported by BuzzFeed News. Then on Wednesday evening, the same publication also revealed that Scruton claimed in 2005 that there was "no such crime" as date rape and said sexual harassment “just means sexual advances made by the unattractive”.

"The more that emerges about Roger Scruton's deeply unpleasant and discriminatory views, the less sense it makes that the Tories ever thought he was suitable for a government position," Jon Trickett, Labour's shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said after the latest revelations. "Theresa May must step in and sack him.” Will she?

The official line, before Scruton's comments on date rape were reported, was no. MHCLG defended Scruton as a “long-standing public intellectual” with “strong views on a number of issues”, adding that he also served as an adviser to the Coalition.

Whitehall sources said Scruton would not be sacked and flatly rejected suggestions that he is anti-Semitic – as, of course, does Scruton himself – and point to Guido Fawkes’s argument that he is being attacked “on the basis of quotations taken out of context and a highly selective use of historical facts”. They would not be drawn on the accusations of Islamophobia or homophobia, pointing instead to Scruton's own denials

The Tories are of course loath to give Labour and the Twittersphere a second scalp. But ministers launched an equally dogged defence of Toby Young before he resigned in January - and with more bad publicity certain to come, it remains to be seen whether they or Scruton can withstand the pressure. 

Patrick Maguire is the New Statesman's political correspondent.