Johnny Mercer

Why I was wrong to call for Roger Scruton to be sacked

It’s been an interesting week. I was perhaps a little too hasty to jump in the ring and conduct what I thought was a defence of values that Tom Tugendhat and I both share. I saw him condemning what we both thought were anti-Semitic remarks, made by an individual who had previously made offensive comments I could not agree with. In fact, it turned out to be poor journalism from an individual whose social media posts afterwards revealed his motives. I was too quick to respond to partial quotes and partial information spread on social media with (it translated later) malicious intent. To this day we don’t know what he said and in what context, which is the problem.

But the hammering we’ve both had – mine worse, because I stand by my dislike of some of the things Sir Roger Scruton says – from the intellectual high priests of conservatism has been quite something. Toby Young and other curious individuals have mounted a campaign to ask me to change my views.

Here’s why I won’t be. I have huge respect for intellectualism. The gift of free speech and free thought is a precious one, and one I have actually fought and bled for. I admire those who make a living from it, who have a relentless pursuit of opponents, and at times rightly cause offence to the status quo.

But as I have been previously criticised for not being from ‘good political stock’, or being a lawyer or something more suitable for parliamentary life, it would appear I am being criticised here for not being an intellectual scholar. I must again point out that I profess to be none of the above, and neither would I want to be. I would also gently suggest the nation has perhaps got enough MPs from this stock already.

I’m a politician who believes in winning elections for my side, in getting people to vote for me, in bringing people together to pursue the common good.

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