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TORY philosopher Roger Scruton recently stepped into public view, and promptly embarrassed himself with a load of bigoty-sounding comments that got him sacked from his recent advisory job for the Tory government.
Scruton has been an accident waiting to happen ever since Housing Minister James Brokenshire gave him an advisory job last year.
Brokenshire has now sacked Scruton after he made some — entirely predictable — offensive comments in an interview with the New Statesman.
A comedy crew of people who make equally offensive comments about Muslims and other minorities have rushed forward to defend Scruton. But so have some people with positions in and around the Labour Party.
Scruton had been largely out of the public eye since a 2002 scandal when it was revealed he wrote pro-smoking articles without admitting his funding from tobacco firms.
Brokenshire brought him back into the limelight with a prestigious, but unpaid, job as chair of the Building Beautiful Commission, advising on how new housing developments should look.
Scruton’s job is, I think, to persuade Tory nimbies that new housing developments are OK because they will have the “Olde Worlde” architecture he favours, like Prince Charles’s Poundbury development in Dorset.
Lots of Tories admire Scruton despite — or perhaps because of — his sleazy behaviour and reactionary views. But they look even worse now than they did in 2002.
When Brokenshire brought Scruton back into the limelight, the philosopher’s statements that being gay is “not normal,” there is no such crime as “date rape,” that sexual harassment “just means sexual advances made by the unattractive” were also brought under new scrutiny.
Brokenshire just about resisted sacking Scruton then. But Scruton’s fresh round of offensive statements in a New Statesman interview with deputy editor George Eaton meant Brokenshire finally had to let him go.
Scruton’s right-wing fan club is enraged the New Statesman caught their favourite philosopher with his trousers down, showing the dirty underwear of his views on ethnic minorities.
The Spectator hit back with a front-page story by Douglas Murray which tried to defend Scruton. The 2,000-word article is twice as long as the piece in the New Statesman it attacks, so you can get a sense of how furious the Tory right feels.
But the actual substance is comically bad. In what looks like straight racism to me, Scruton said Hungarians liked their right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban because of “this sudden invasion of, um, huge tribes of Muslims.”
Scruton admitted that “invasion” might not be “the most diplomatic word to use.” But he seems to think “huge tribes” is OK. Perhaps Scruton, Murray and the Spectator editor all really believe Muslims do live in tribes ?
If they want to write an apologia for bigotry, it might help if they knew what bigotry looked like.
Getting Murray to defend Scruton looks a bit like getting Alf Garnett to defend Enoch Powell, given Murray’s own anti-Islamic statements. In 2017 Murray told the BBC that “less Islam in general is obviously a good thing,” because of terrorism.
This echoed Murray’s demand in a notorious 2006 speech that “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board” and “immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop” before “a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities.”
The Spectator itself also takes money from an Orban-linked think tank to publish its surveys, packed full of inflammatory anti-migrant questions.
The Spectator’s long-winded misfiring attempt to defend Scruton is no surprise, but he also has his defenders on the supposed “left.”
New Statesman editor Jason Cowley, who loves to cringe before Conservatives, was actually embarrassed by the way Eaton’s interview exposed Scruton.
Cowley is happier with the Statesman causing low-level admiring murmurs in university common rooms than actually making a news impact, especially where that means annoying any potential posh Tory pals.
And “Blue Labour” intellectual Jonathan Rutherford also leapt to Scruton’s defence.
Blue Labour argues that the party needs to adopt “social conservatism” and “family, faith and flag” to win over working-class voters.
Critics say Blue Labour is about Labour being more anti-immigrant and sexist and appealing to bigotry.
Rutherford’s defence of Scruton, on the Blue Labour website, makes the critics’ case for them.
Rutherford attacked the New Statesman for its Scruton interview in a pretty unhinged way, accusing it of “a journalistic culture tinged with a liberal Stalinism,” a “toxic mixture of self-righteous ignorance and intolerance.”
Rutherford defended Scruton as having “a love of home.” Rutherford waved away Scruton’s offensive comments as just “views on Islam.”
It’s a simple test. If anyone refers to black, Jewish or Muslim immigrants as “huge tribes,” they are using the language racists use.
Blue Labour is a fringe movement, but it has some big supporters in Labour. Rutherford has a parliamentary pass because he works as a researcher for Leeds Labour MP Rachel Reeves, and was until recently also employed by Chuka Umunna.
Some of the people who view Scruton as a respectable figure, and are prepared to overlook his anti-Muslim language, are also well thought of in “moderate” Labour circles.
So if Scruton got the job as Brokenshire’s adviser, how bad was the competition? What were the other candidates like?
Labour MPs asked where the job was advertised, how many candidates applied and were interviewed, who was on the interview panel?
The government gave one answer. Scruton was “appointed directly” — there was no job advert, no other candidates, no panel.
Brokenshire just decided Scruton should have the job, and that was that.
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