Government adviser sacked after claiming George Soros is running ‘empire’ in Hungary, Chinese people are ‘robots’ and Islamophobia was ‘invented by Muslim Brotherhood’

Sir Roger Scruton removed as housing tsar over ‘unacceptable’ comments that Labour says ‘invoke the language of white supremacists’

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 10 April 2019 16:44 BST
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Sir Roger Scruton claimed Islamophobia was ‘invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue’
Sir Roger Scruton claimed Islamophobia was ‘invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue’ (Getty)

A government adviser has been sacked after claiming that Jewish billionaire businessman George Soros controls “an empire” in Hungary, prompting outrage over the use of a common antisemitic trope.

Sir Roger Scruton was removed as chair of a government commission on building better quality housing after he also called Chinese people “robots” and suggested Islamophobia was a propaganda word “invented by the Muslim Brotherhood”.

Labour had demanded his sacking over the “despicable” comments.

The author and academic had previously faced calls for his removal as chair of the government’s ”Build Better, Build Beautiful” commission after he claimed Hungarian Jews were part of an “empire” run by Mr Soros, who was born in Hungary.

But asked about the row during an interview with the New Statesman, he insisted: “Anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.”

The far-right prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, has repeated common antisemitic tropes about Jewish influence by claiming that Mr Soros is secretly controlling Hungarian affairs.

But Sir Roger insisted it was “nonsense” to accuse Mr Orban, a personal friend of his, of antisemitism or Islamophobia. The Hungarian prime minister has previously referred to refugees as “Muslim invaders”.

Sir Roger said: “The Hungarians were extremely alarmed by the sudden invasion of huge tribes of Muslims from the Middle East.”

He also appeared to suggest that Islamophobia was not a real problem, saying the word was “invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue”.

Continuing comments that will come as a major embarrassment to the government, the philosopher also claimed that Chinese people were “robots”, saying 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.”

The government adviser caused further humiliation for Theresa May by suggesting she was not the right person to lead the country through Brexit.

He said: “I can’t say that Theresa May would have been my choice. She’s obviously an honest, respectable, somewhat old-fashioned, wooden person ... she’s doing her best. But it’s not what the country needs, it does need strong leadership.”

Sir Roger claimed the resignation of Ms May’s predecessor, David Cameron, “really was the death knell of the Conservative Party as we knew it because that’s something a proper Conservative politician cannot do: renounce leadership at the moment when it’s needed”.

He was sacked from his government role within hours of the interview being published.

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.”

Government ministers had previously defended their decision to appoint the academic to advise the government on housing.

In November, James Brokenshire, the housing and communities secretary, poured praise on him, saying he was “a global authority on aesthetics” and “one of the country’s leading living philosophers”.

He said the government had carried out due diligence checks on Sir Roger but insisted: “With his experience and commitment to this important agenda, Sir Roger is the right person to chair the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.”

Asked about the remarks, Jeremy Corbyn spokesman’s said: “It’s not the first time he has said things like this. They’re completely unacceptable and nobody in a public position who makes those kind of remarks should be in that position.”

Asked if Sir Roger should be sacked, he replied: “Yes.”

Labour MP Afzal Khan raises Islamophobia complaints within Tory party and asks when it will adopt the internationally recognised definition of anti-Muslim hate

Dawn Butler MP, the shadow women and equalities secretary, said: “These comments by Roger Scruton are despicable and invoke the language of white supremacists.

“His claim that Islamophobia does not exist, a few weeks after the devastating attack in Christchurch, is extremely dangerous, and his defence of the prejudice stoked by Viktor Orban’s government in Hungary is appalling.

She added: “Theresa May must sack Roger Scruton immediately. If she doesn’t, it will be further evidence that she is turning a blind eye to the deep-rooted prejudices and racist views in the Conservative Party, and will again signal that her government endorses these disgusting views.”

The Muslim Council of Britain had also called for Sir Roger to be sacked over his defence of Mr Orban. In a statement it 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.

“As the Conservative Party faces its latest crisis on Islamophobia it cannot continue with false promises to take the issue seriously whilst retaining people such as Mr Scruton as a government adviser.”

Several Conservative MPs joined the calls. Foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat said: “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.”

Johnny Mercer, the Plymouth Moor View MP, said sacking Sir Roger was a “no brainer”.

And Tory former chancellor George Osborne wrote on Twitter: “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?”

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