he fall of Sir Roger Scruton was a drama in two parts. Act One began last November when the 75-year-old conservative philosopher was appointed Chair of “Building Better, Building Beautiful”, a commission established by the government to try to improve the design of new homes, villages and towns. The beady-eyed commissars of political correctness immediately sensed an opportunity and, within hours, they were hard at work, digging through everything Scruton had ever said or written in the hope of finding material they could be “offended” by — ideally, anything that would make him look like a racist, homophobe or misogynist, even if that meant wrenching it out of context. Given that Scruton has written more than 50 books and enjoyed a long career as a prolific journalist and public speaker, they had plenty of material to sift through and, sure enough, they soon found a treasure trove of “hateful” comments. For instance, he’d once described “Islamophobia” as a “propaganda word” and — in a column for the Telegraph in 2007 — said homosexuality was “not normal”. He’d also given a lecture in the United States in 2005 in which he questioned whether “date rape” — defined by him as when a woman has initially consented to sex but withdrawn it afterwards — should be a criminal offence.
I thought he was a goner, partly because I’d been taken out in an almost identical manner when the government appointed me to the board of the Office for Students, the new universities regulator, 11 months earlier. As soon as it was announced, my enemies on the Left started searching for evidence that I’d once held “unacceptable” views and it didn’t take them long to find it. For instance, someone went through the Spectator’s archive and read everything I’d written, dating back more than 20 years. Sure enough, they discovered a piece from 2001 entitled “Confessions of a porn addict”, which they then photographed and put on Twitter. Within 15 minutes, the Evening Standard ran an article headlined: “New Pressure on Theresa May to Sack ‘Porn Addict’ Toby Young from Watchdog Role.” After eight days of this, with Labour’s front bench gleefully seizing every opportunity to denounce me, Downing Street began to wobble and I had no choice but to resign. I hoped that would draw a line under the affair, but I ended up losing five positions, including a Buckingham University fellowship and my full-time job running a free schools charity. (To read more, click here.)