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Artillery Row

George Eaton was not responsible for Roger Scruton’s firing

The Conservatives were ultimately responsible

Derision has met George Eaton of the New Statesman’s announcement that he has been made Senior Editor. Those of us on the right recall his disingenuous interview with the late Roger Scruton, which heavily implied that he was a hateful racist, as well as his obnoxious celebration on Instagram when Scruton was removed as an adviser to the Conservative Party. 

Excellent news @georgeeaton,” Douglas Murray writes, “Now you can make up fresh lies about people, try to get away with it and get another promotion from the @NewStatesman. Nice work.”

Eaton deserves criticism, certainly, and anyone accepting an interview with him should go with a dictaphone and a head of garlic. But in this author’s opinion, he was not primarily to blame for Scruton’s near cancellation. It was not Mr Eaton who raced to remove the great philosopher from his advisory position. It was the Conservatives.

MPs were lining up to swing verbal cricket bats into the torso of a man whose achievements dwarfed their own

MPs were lining up to swing verbal cricket bats into the torso of a man whose achievements dwarfed their own. Tom Tugendhat MP, now Minister of State for Security, leapt to declare to BuzzFeed News: “Antisemitism sits alongside racism, anti-Islam, homophobia, and sexism as a cretinous belief that has no place in our public life and particularly not in government.” Needless to say, Scruton had said nothing antisemitic. He had made reference to the “Soros empire”, which is no more antisemitic than referring to a “Murdoch empire” would be Australiaphobic. But Tugendhat was all too willing to take the word of the New Statesman and BuzzFeed News — those giants of balanced and impartial journalism — rather than have some faith in one of the great conservatives. 

“No brainer,” tweeted Johnny Mercer MP, desperate to seize a chance to flaunt his virtue, “Let’s not take our time on this.” No brainer indeed. Yes, let’s not take time to work out whether a great conservative actually deserves exile. Banish first, think later — that’s the modern way. James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government — who sadly died in 2021 — limply caved.

Soon, you could hear the desperate screech of backpedalling. Scruton was invited to return to his position after the New Statesman issued corrections and an apology. Tugendhat sent what Scruton called a “very nice” apology. Mercer wrote a long article for the Spectator which was about 10 per cent about Roger Scruton and about 90 per cent about Johnny Mercer.

But a lot of damage had been done, and most of the blame should fall on Scruton’s Conservative critics. None of this is to excuse Eaton, of course, who had been disingenuous and obnoxious. But Eaton was doing pretty much what we should expect a left-wing journalist to do. It would have been a storm in a teacup if the Tories had done what we should be able to expect them to do and ignored him. 

Journalists — dubious breed of men and women though they are — cannot “cancel” people by themselves. They can only lay out the alleged grounds on which other people should pass the sentence. It’s these other people who have the final word and who are ultimately most responsible.

The Conservatives were most responsible for the firing of Roger Scruton — betraying a man who had devoted most of his working life to their cause, only months before what turned out to be his death.

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