Ben Lowry: The appalling sacking of the traditional philosopher Sir Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton, the academic and philosopher talking about Green philosophy at the London think tank Policy Exchange in 2012
Roger Scruton, the academic and philosopher talking about Green philosophy at the London think tank Policy Exchange in 2012

There was another example of political cowardice this week.

The government sacked Sir Roger Scruton as chair of its Building Better, Building Beautiful commission.

Sir Roger, a philosopher, was unpaid in the role. The commission is seeking to make our surroundings more attractive.

Given that we need more buildings for things such as homes and businesses, and given that there is a limited amount of space, and given that it is expensive to build structures to a high quality, there is a real danger that we all end up living in progressively more ugly settings.

Think of the most beautiful buildings in Northern Ireland: Stormont, Belfast City Hall, Queen’s University, old churches, and so on. Most of them are old and were put up using materials and labour that would now be impossibly expensive.

Think then of the tiers of ugly, low quality, but necessary buildings, put up after the war, that stretch for mile after mile, and you get a sense of the scale of the problem.

The effort to save Bank Buildings in the heart of Belfast after the Primark fire has shown a public desire to keep our best landmarks.

Sir Roger was ideal in his role because he is a great thinker, who has written about the joys of life from art to wine to music, and also about fine architecture.

He is a brilliant advocate of conservative principles who defends religious faith in an age of aggressive atheism, and other traditions.

He has rightly questioned the catch-all phrase ‘Islamophobia’ at a time when it is essential that we can freely criticise Islamic extremism.

He has been sacked for comments made in an interview with the New Statesman, the full transcript of which is not yet released.

The former Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire was behind this appalling decision.

Sir Roger should be judged on a lifetime of endeavour, in which he has produced dozens of acclaimed books. Mr Brokenshire should have made clear that he was fully behind Sir Roger in his voluntary role.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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