Big changes over at Policy Exchange this week, with an expansion and a greater foothold in Downing Street. The think tank today formally announced the hiring of the whole Open Europe research team following its Brexit Day dissolution. PX also announced OE Chairman Simon Wolfson is joining Policy Exchange’s Board of Trustees along with Sir David Ord, the Managing Director of the Bristol Port Company…
It’s not just Open Europe that Policy Exchange seem to be taking over, with Downing Street’s housing policy in their sights too. Guido can reveal that PX Head of Housing Jack Airey is moving across to No. 10 as Boris’s new Housing and Planning SpAd.
The move says a lot about the Government’s future housing plans. Airey was one of the driving forces behind the ‘Scrutonian’ ‘Building Beautiful’ agenda – co-authoring the original Policy Exchange paper with Sir Roger that led to his BBBC appointment by then Housing Secretary James Brokenshire.
Last month Airey published a paper on how the Government can tear up the planning system and take back power and control from local bureaucrats who block new developments. The Government now looks even more set to deliver on Scruton’s legacy…
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Roger Scruton was initially dismissed as (unpaid) chair of the government’s ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’ after a New Statesman hatchet job had him sacked. When a leaked a recording of the interview surfaced, it turned out the remarks had been misrepresented. The New Statesman apologised, the author George Eaton was demoted, and Scruton was reappointed. He was diagnosed with lung cancer later that same week…
Scruton’s work is being released today, the Commission launches its report entitled ‘Living in Beauty’. Guido understands Scruton put all his energy into finishing the Commission’s report. He attended meetings in a wheelchair and was still working on the last details in the final days of his life…
His answer to simultaneously dealing with the housing crisis and the country’s many ugly buildings is boiled down to forty-five adjustments to the current regime to “support the creation of more beautiful communities.” The report’s recommendations include:
Scruton’s report aims to shows how the country can be enhanced by building more attractive buildings, rather than concreted over or frozen in time. It has already been backed by the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Town and Country Planning Association. The Government would be shooting itself in the foot to not accept the recommendations…
One of Britain’s most preeminent conservative writers and thinkers, Sir Roger Scruton, has passed away aged 75 following a short battle with cancer. Guido’s thoughts are with his friends and family who put out this statement this evening:
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Sir Roger Scruton, FBA, FRSL. Beloved husband of Sophie, adored father to Sam and Lucy and treasured brother of Elizabeth and Andrea, he died peacefully on Sunday 12th January. He was born on 27th February 1944 and had been fighting cancer for the last 6 months. His family are hugely proud of him and of all his achievements.
At this time, Guido is reminded of Sir Roger’s words from the Christmas Speccie
During this year much was taken from me — my reputation, my standing as a public intellectual, my position in the Conservative movement, my peace of mind, my health. But much more was given back: by Douglas Murray’s generous defence, by the friends who rallied behind him, by the rheumatologist who saved my life and by the doctor to whose care I am now entrusted. Falling to the bottom in my own country, I have been raised to the top elsewhere, and looking back over the sequence of events I can only be glad that I have lived long enough to see this happen. Coming close to death you begin to know what life means, and what it means is gratitude.
A giant amongst men…
Housing Today had the scoop and Douglas Murray, who campaigned to get Roger Scruton re-appointed as head of a government housing body, has the text of the letters exchanged:
Dear Sir Roger,
Thank you so much for our conversation about the next steps on the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. As we both recognise, the publication of the Commission’s Interim Report provides an opportunity to consider next steps in finalising recommendations to Government to promote quality and beauty in the built environment. You have already been so influential in advancing this vision and I hope you will be able to play a leading role as the Commission embarks on the next phase of its work.
As we discussed, I would be pleased to see you re-appointed back to the Commission. It was helpful to receive your thoughts on this and what form this might take – including the suggestion that I consider appointing you as the Commission’s co-chair alongside Nicholas Boys-Smith. There is no doubt that Nicholas has done an incredible job in chairing the Commission over recent weeks and in achieving consensus with his fellow commissioners on the interim recommendations. I know we both have the highest regard for him.
In the light of this, I would be delighted if you would be willing to be re-appointed to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission as co-chair. I know that you still have so much more to give and hope this may also help to put things right after the regrettable events of recent months.
Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP
Roger Scruton’s response:
Dear Secretary of State,
Thank you for your letter offering to bring me back on to the Commission. I think the suggestion that Nicholas and I be joint chairs is a very good one, since we work together well, and we could bring the job to a successful conclusion. And I am so pleased that all has been resolved in a friendly way and we can return to the matter in hand, which is so important.
An injustice righted…
Sir Roger Scruton has now issued his own press statement after the New Statesman finally issued an apology to him yesterday over George Eaton’s hatchet job. However, while Scruton appears to have largely buried the hatchet with the New Statesman, he instead launches a searing broadside at the Conservative Party for the way they threw him under the bus. They didn’t even bother asking for his side of the story before hanging him out to dry…
Scruton say he was “astonished” by the comments issued by 10 Downing Street and “particularly distressed by the behaviour of the Minister who sacked me on the strength of the NS article, without asking me whether it accurately represented anything that I had said” – the minister being James Brokenshire. Scruton even says he is “grateful” to the New Statesman for awakening him to the “true moral crisis of the Party to which, despite everything, I still belong.” Ouch.
Read Scruton’s statement in full:
“I am pleased to have resolved my complaint against the New Statesman. They have apologised for how they misrepresented my interview on Twitter and accepted that their article in some fundamental ways did not accurately reflect what I had said. I am pleased that the words I actually spoke are now available. This experience was very unpleasant, not least on account of the rush to judgment by others in the media and in politics.
“I was particularly distressed by the behaviour of the Minister who sacked me on the strength of the NS article, without asking me whether it accurately represented anything that I had said. I was also astonished by the comments issued from Number Ten Downing Street, and by the fact that the Conservative Party made no collective effort to defend me. I am grateful to the New Statesman at least for this, that these distressing events have awoken me to the true moral crisis of the Party to which, despite everything, I still belong.”