Theresa May urged to sack housing tsar Roger Scruton over ‘Islamophobic and antisemitic comments’

Controversial philosopher chosen to chair new public body to champion ‘beautiful buildings’

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 07 November 2018 10:41 GMT
Sir Roger Scruton has in the past made controversial comments on homosexuality and Islam
Sir Roger Scruton has in the past made controversial comments on homosexuality and Islam

Theresa May is facing pressure to sack her newly appointed housing tsar over claims he made Islamophobic, antisemitic and homophobic comments in a series of articles and books.

Professor Sir Roger Scruton, a controversial philosopher, was chosen to advise the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government at the weekend, as chairman of a new public body to champion beautiful buildings.

Labour MPs are now urging ministers to sack the conservative academic after it emerged he had described homosexuality as “not normal” and said Islamophobia was a “propaganda word”.

Sir Roger also faced accusations of propagating antisemitic conspiracies about Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros in a 2014 lecture, where he said “many of the Budapest intelligentsia are Jewish, and form part of the extensive networks around the Soros empire”.

However, the government issued a statement in support of the professor, who denied the claims and said he was “offended and hurt” by allegations of Islamophobia and antisemitism.

The comments were highlighted by a BuzzFeed News investigation, which included a 2007 article for The Telegraph, in which he wrote: “Every now and then, however, we wake up to the fact that, although homosexuality has been normalised, it is not normal.

“Our acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, of same-sex couples, and of the gay scene has not eliminated our sense that these are alternatives to something, and that it is the other thing that is normal.”

On BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View in 2015 he said: “The orthodox liberal view is that homosexuality is innate and guiltless.

“Like the Islamists, the advocates of this view have invented a phobia with which to denounce their opponents.

“Deviate in the smallest matter from the orthodoxy, and you will be accused of homophobia and, although this is not yet a crime, it is accompanied, especially for those with any kind of public office, by real social costs.”

It also emerged that he described Islamophobia as a “propaganda word” in his 2017 book Conservatism: Ideas in Profile.

He said: “There has been in official circles a deliberate silencing of discussion, a refusal to describe things by their proper names, and the adoption of the propaganda word ‘Islamophobia’ to create a wholly imaginary enemy”.

Labour MP Luciana Berger, parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, called for Sir Roger to be removed from the post for his comments about George Soros.

She said: ”An individual who peddles antisemitic conspiracy theories has no place advising government about anything.

“Theresa May, please intervene. [Housing secretary] James Brokenshire should urgently reconsider his appointment.”

Fellow Labour MP Wes Streeting said: “With every passing hour it becomes clear that Roger Scruton has a history of making offensive comments.

“It beggars belief that he passed a vetting process.

“This is an appalling error of judgment from the secretary of state and the prime minister should sack him immediately and ask James Brokenshire how this appointment was ever made in the first place.”

And Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse said: “Someone with these views has no place in advising the government on anything, and it is deeply concerning that the Conservatives have associated themselves with offensive views like this.

“Roger Scruton should never have been employed and the PM should ask him to resign.”

An MHCLG spokesman defended the decision to appoint Sir Roger to the post.

The spokesman said: “Professor Sir Roger Scruton, as a longstanding public intellectual, has strong views on a number of issues.

“He received a knighthood in 2016 and advised the coalition government on design.

“His commitment to driving quality in the built environment is well known and he has published extensively on architecture and place, which makes him an excellent candidate for the unpaid chairmanship of the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission.”

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In a statement released on Twitter, Sir Roger said he had been “offended” by the allegations made against him.

“Nothing could be further from the truth and I wish to rebut these incorrect assertions,” he said.

“If people actually read my comments regarding the interplay between George Soros and Hungary, they will realise they are not in any way antisemitic, indeed quite the opposite.”

He added: “Only two years ago I supported George Soros by making representations to Prime Minister Orban’s regime to keep open the Central European University so that intellectual freedom could continue to flourish in Hungary.

“My statements on Islamic states point only to the failure of these states, which is a fact. My views on Islam are well known and can be found in my book The West and the Rest.”

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