Roger Scruton, chair of the UK government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission, is under scrutiny for voicing opinions on Jewish people, rape and homosexuality.
The Conservative government is facing calls to remove Scruton from the new post, where he will “advocate for beauty in the built environment”, after statements he made in past lectures resurfaced.
The writer and philosopher had made controversial statements on topics including date rape and LGBT+ adoption.
Scruton said there is “no such crime” as date rape
Buzzfeed News has published footage of Scruton giving a talk in the US in 2005. In it, he claimed there is “no such crime” as date rape.
“When a woman cries date rape what she means is the whole thing went too quickly,” Scruton told the audience.
In a 2014 speech published on his website, Scruton said the Jewish “intelligentsia” in Budapest “form part of the extensive networks around the Soros empire”.
Luciana Berger, the Jewish MP for Liverpool Wavertree, wrote on Twitter: “An individual who peddles antisemitic conspiracy theories has no place advising government about anything.”
She called on prime minister Theresa May to intervene, and housing secretary James Brokenshire to “urgently reconsider” Scruton’s appointment as chair.
Commission chair said homosexuality “is not normal”
Scruton is also being attacked over a 2007 piece he wrote for the Telegraph, where he opined that “although homosexuality has been normalised, it is not normal”. His article made a case against gay couples being allowed to adopt on the grounds it was an “injustice” to children.
“It is no more an act of discrimination to exclude gay couples than it is to exclude incestuous liaisons or communes of promiscuous ‘swingers’,” he wrote.
Scruton also claimed that Islamophobia was a “propaganda word” created to silence discussion, in his 2017 book Conservatism: Ideas in Profile.
Conservative government backs Scruton
Despite the claims, the government is standing behind Scruton. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said he is an “excellent candidate” for the chair of the commission.
The new government body is part of a drive to “tackle the challenge of poor quality design and build of homes and places” in the UK.
“Professor Sir Roger Scruton, as a long-standing public intellectual, has strong views on a number of issues,” said a MHCLG spokesperson.
“He received a knighthood in 2016,” they added. “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.”
Scruton denies allegations
The philosopher made a statement on Twitter refuting some of the allegations.
“I am offended and hurt by suggestions I am antisemitic or in any way ‘Islamiphobic’,” reads the statement. Scruton noted the chair position was unpaid, and said his comments had been taken out of context.
In his statement on Buzzfeed’s article, Scruton complained that “highly selective quotes grossly misrepresent” the whole lecture.
“I was in no way suggesting that victims of date rape are not victims of a crime and could have worded my point differently to make this clearer,” he said.
“I’ve spent my life arguing for greater respect between men and women and anyone who takes the time to read my books or listen to my lectures will realise this.”
Dezeen reached out to Scruton for additional comment but did not receive a reply.
Appointment caused backlash from architects
The news that Scruton was appointed chair of the commission had already caused a backlash from some UK architects and critics, who described the body as a “tedious hangover from 1980s”.
“I want to give the public the opportunity to have the kind of architecture they would vote for,” Scruton said in response, “not the kind that is imposed on them by the disciples of Le Corbusier and Mies.”
Main photo is by Elekes Andor.
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