In November last year, a row kicked off when the government asked the philosopher Roger Scruton to chair the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, which will investigate the beauty of architecture in the UK. The 75-year-old philosopher was criticised by opposition MPs in the Commons for remarks he had made in the past about homosexuality, Islamophobia and alleged anti-Semitism.
Now, fresh scrutiny has been applied to the government’s decision once again, after Scruton gave an interview in the New Statesman in which he repeated some of his more controversial remarks. The government have since axed Scruton as an advisor.
However, many are still questioning why Scruton was appointed to the position in the first place, given that many of his views have long been public. Leading the charge against the government for the temerity to appoint Scruton is the editor of the Evening Standard, who readers may remember as being the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a previous life. In a broadside, squarely aimed at Theresa May, George Osborne noted that:
‘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.’
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? https://t.co/MCSrUSW456
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) April 10, 2019
Only this isn’t the first time that Scruton has been hired as a government advisor by a Conservative government. In fact, in March 2015, when George Osborne was still Chancellor, the government launched an initiative called ‘Starter homes designed to stand the test of time’, which aimed to get councils and house builders to construct higher-quality homes.
The initiative was aided by a newly formed government ‘Design Advisory Panel’ which not only supported the scheme but also published government-approved designs for starter homes which councils could draw inspiration from. And who was on said panel? None other than Roger Scruton.
Now clearly at the time of his appointment, Scruton’s interview with the New Statesman had not taken place. However many of Scruton’s views were already well known and published in mainstream papers such as the Daily Telegraph. Funny then that Osborne had nothing to say at the time.