In one of her final acts as prime minister, Theresa May has reinstated Sir Roger Scruton as the government’s housing tsar, after he was sacked last year over comments made in an interview
Scruton, a conservative academic, was appointed as chair of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission last year, but was sacked in April after making what a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government called “unacceptable” comments to the New Statesman.
Quotes included in the article included comments about Chinese people that Scruton said had been taken out of context to make it look as if he was making a “racist slur”.
The New Statesman, which published the comments, later apologised after it emerged that some of Scruton’s comments had been truncated in the published interview, leading to claims he had been misrepresented.
The apology, published alongside a full transcript of the interview, said that “links to the article were tweeted out together with partial quotations from the interview”, including a shortened version of Scruton’s quotation about China.
“We acknowledge that the views of Professor Scruton were not accurately represented in the tweets to his disadvantage,” the publication said.
Last month Scruton revealed housing minister James Brokenshire had written to him apologising for the sacking after the transcript emerged and asking for suggestions of how he could continue to contribute to the work of the commission, an independent body set up to advise MHCLG on how to encourage high-quality design in the construction of new houses and neighbouhoods.
"I regret that the decision to remove you from your leadership role within the commission was taken in the way that it was. I am sorry – especially as it was based on a clearly partial report of your thoughts," Brokenshire wrote.
Boris Johnson, who was elected leader of the Conservative Party yesterday and becomes prime minister today, said at a hustings event during his election campaign that Scruton’s sacking was “disgraceful” and that he should be restored to his position.
Some of the philosopher's comments to the New Statesman remain contentious, including the assertion that Islamophobia was a “propaganda word” invented by extremists and is used to shut down debate.
Writiing for the Spectator about the controversy in April, Scruton wrote: "I think of ‘homophobia’ as a similar word [to Islamophobia], designed to close all debate about a matter in which only one view is now deemed permissible.
"Apparently I once wrote that homosexuality is ‘not normal’, but nobody has told me where, or why that is a particularly offensive thing to say," he said, adding that he did not consider homosexuality a "perversion".
"Red hair too is not normal, nor is decency among left-wing journalists."