Writer and philosopher Professor Sir Roger Scruton has hit back at Labour MPs calling for him to stand down from a newly-appointed Government role, citing past comments on Jews and the Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
After his appointment as the unpaid chair of the Government’s advisory committee on ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful,’ Scruton took a swipe at his accusers, saying he had been “offended and hurt” by suggestions that he was antisemitic.
“Nothing could be further from the truth, and I wish to rebut these incorrect assertions,” he wrote on his website. “If people actually read my comments regarding the interplay between George Soros and Hungary they will realise they are not in any way anti-Semitic, indeed quite the opposite.”
In the 2013 comments, Scruton described how the Jewish minority that survived the Nazi occupation in Hungary suffered further persecution under the Communists, but nevertheless was “active in making its presence known”.
He said: “Many of the Budapest intelligentsia are Jewish, and form part of the extensive networks around the Soros Empire. People in these networks include many who are rightly suspicious of nationalism, regard nationalism as the major cause of the tragedy of Central Europe in the 20th century.”
He added: “Moreover, as the world knows, indigenous anti-Semitism still plays a part in Hungarian society and politics, and presents an obstacle to the emergence of a shared national loyalty among ethnic Hungarians and Jews.”
Labour MP Luciana Berger said Scruton was “peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” that he should have “no place advising government about anything” and called on Communities Secretary James Brokenshire to remove him.
The CST’S Mark Gardner said: “As a philosopher and writer, Roger Scruton knows the power of words, so he should understand why this kind of language (about Jews, networks and national loyalty) would deeply concern Jews and serve to excite antisemites.”
Yet Scruton said he “supported George Soros by making representations to [Hungarian] Prime Minister Orban’s regime to keep open [the Soros-funded] Central European University so that intellectual freedom could continue to flourish”.
The Government this week stood by their man, saying Scruton was “a long-standing public intellectual” who “has strong views on a number of issues”.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Professor Sir Roger Scruton 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.”