Housing tsar Roger Scruton sacked over 'unacceptable' comments

Written by Emilio Casalicchio on 10 April 2019 in News

Academic dismissed as housing adviser after making remarks about "Soros empire"

Sir Roger Scruton, who was knighted in 2016. Photo: PA

The chair of the housing ministry's Building Better Building Beautiful Commission has been sacked after complaining of a “Soros empire” and saying Islamophobia was a “propaganda word” invented by extremists.

Sir Roger Scruton, who was appointed as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's housing tsar last year, made the comments in an interview with the New Statesman.

MHCLG announced Scruton had been removed just hours after the interview was published.

"Professor Sir Roger Scruton has been dismissed as chairman of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission with immediate effect, following his unacceptable comments," a spokesperson said.

“A new chair will be appointed by the secretary of state, to take this important work forward, in due course."

Scruton, a conservative academic, had told the New Statesman: “Anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.”

The comments refer to the Jewish philanthropist George Soros, who is frequently targeted by conspiracy theorists.

The philosopher also mounted a fresh defence of far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban against claims of antisemitism and Islamophobia

“The Hungarians were extremely alarmed by the sudden invasion of huge tribes of Muslims from the Middle East,” he argued.

Discussing the rise of China as a superpower, he added: “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.”

Scruton's dismissal comes after ministers rebuffed calls to sack him last November, when he was accused of having made antisemitic, Islamophobic and homophobic remarks in the past.

Asked what had changed, a No. 10 spokesperson said today: "He was appointed because of his expertise in the built environment, but his comments are clearly distracting from the important work of the commission and it is no longer right for him to act as a government adviser."

The Building Better Building Beautiful Commission is an independent body set up to advise MHCLG on how to encourage high-quality design in the construction of new houses and neighbouhoods.

A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain said: "While we welcome the action taken by the government, there are serious questions to answer as to why Mr Scruton was appointed in the first place.

"It is not the first time he has expressed Islamophobic views."

MPs from across the political divide condemned the comments. Shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler said Scruton should “never have been appointed” to the role.

"These comments are despicable and invoke the language of white supremacists," she said.

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Emilio Casalicchio
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Emilio Casalicchio is chief reporter for PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.

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