UK Politics

Roger Scruton: Conservative thinker dies at 75

Sir Roger Scruton Image copyright Getty Images

Conservative philosopher and author Sir Roger Scruton has died aged 75.

The author of more than 50 books on aesthetics, morality and politics, he was also a government adviser.

A statement on his website said he had been "fighting cancer for six months" and "died peacefully" on Sunday.

Boris Johnson led the tributes, calling him the country's "greatest modern conservative thinker", while Chancellor Sajid Javid said "he made a unique contribution to public life."

Sir Roger was at the centre of controversy last year when he was dismissed from, then reinstated to, an unpaid role as a government housing adviser after criticism of his comments about China and Muslim immigrants.

After he was restored to the role when supporters said his remarks had been misrepresented, he claimed there was a "witch-hunt" against right-wing figures, aiming to characterise them as racist or fascist.

'Conserve things'

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said Sir Roger was the "greatest conservative of our age".

"The country has lost a towering intellect. I have lost a wonderful friend," he said.

Historian Timothy Garton Ash said he was "a man of extraordinary intellect, learning and humour, a great supporter of central European dissidents, and the kind of provocative - sometimes outrageous - conservative thinker that a truly liberal society should be glad to have challenging it".

Born in February 1944, Sir Roger attended grammar school before studying at Cambridge.

He told the Guardian he became a Conservative when visiting Paris during the 1968 student protests, which he saw as an "unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans" professing "ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Sir Roger received one of Hungary's highest honours in a ceremony in London last month

"I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down," he said.

In 1971, he began teaching philosophy at Birkbeck College, but claimed his career was held back in the "heart of the left establishment".

Three years later he became a founding member of the Conservative Philosophy Group, which was intended to provide an intellectual basis for the Conservative Party to regain power. Newly elected Tory leader Margaret Thatcher attended the group.

In 1982, Sir Roger became founding editor of the Salisbury Review, a journal championing conservatism.

He also began visiting dissidents in Communist Czechoslovakia, smuggling in books, offering courses in suppressed subjects and supporting banned artists. In 1985 he was detained in Brno before being expelled from the country.

After the fall of Communism, Vaclav Havel, the dissident-turned-president, awarded Sir Roger the Medal of Merit.

'Ardent ally'

In the 1990s, he bought a farm in Wiltshire - nicknamed Scrutopia - and celebrated his passion for fox hunting in a book, On Hunting.

Another book, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Pop Culture, led to him being successfully sued by the Pet Shop Boys after he falsely claimed their songs were mostly the work of sound engineers.

In 2002, he was criticised for writing articles in defence of smoking without acknowledging that he was being paid by JTI, one of the largest tobacco companies.

In 2009 - Sir Roger wrote and presented a BBC Two documentary - Why Beauty Matters - in which he argued modern society had placed itself in peril by no longer valuing beauty.

Hungary's right-wing nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, presented Sir Roger with the Order of Merit in December last year, describing him as an "ardent and active ally" of anti-communism in central and eastern Europe.

Mr Orban said Sir Roger was "forward-looking enough to see the threat of illegal migration and defend Hungary against its unjust critics".

Sir Roger leaves his wife, Sophie, and two children, Sam and Lucy,

The statement on his website said his family was "hugely proud of him and of all his achievements".

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