Dr Daniel Pitt teaches at Sheffield University’s Department of Politics and International Relations.
It seems that Sir Roger Scruton’s posthumous influence is at its summit in parts of Europe – for influence on a Prime Minister surely cannot be surmounted. For the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, is often quoting Scruton in her speeches.
For example, at an event at the Policy Exchange earlier this year, she said that Sir Roger “said it best” and then quoted “the real reason people are conservative is that they are attached to the things they love.” On the first anniversary of his passing in 2021, she said that “it is her intention to promote Scruton as one of the pillars of European conservatism” and to “pay him a due tribute” but “most of all to ensure that the young conservative politicians will be inspired by his vision”.
Sir Roger’s influence in the Nordics was demonstrated in May, at Nostos II in Helsinki, Finland, where a friend and a colleague of mine, Prof Ferenc Hörcher spoke about him. He has made the case that Sir Roger’s “life and work is the lingua franca among twenty-first century conservative thinkers”. A month later in June, Lady (Sophie) Scruton spoke at the Roger Scruton Dinner at the Young Leaders Academy in Sweden.
When Sir Roger was honoured with a knighthood in 2016, the Queen’s Birthday Honours notes highlighted his significance in Central and Eastern Europe: “in the 1970s and 80s, he was a central figure in the Underground Universities, promoting real education secretly behind the Iron Curtain. A considerable number of his students became noteworthy figures in the first democratic governments in Eastern Europe following the fall of communism, particularly in the Czech lands, Poland and Hungary”.
Indeed, in 1998, the Czech President, Václav Havel, awarded him the Medal of Merit (First Class). Scruton was at home, as he put it, in the Czech Republic (he spoke fluent Czech) as much as he was on his Wiltshire farm or at least close to it. It was his holiday destination of choice. He was particularly fond of the City of Brno and in 2021 that very same city awarded him in memoriam Honorary Citizenship. Back in 2004, Roger said that this is where he found the “most trustworthy opponents of communism”.
In 2019, whilst Roger was in a wheelchair and bald due his fight with cancer, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, presented him with the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary. Orbán called Scruton “our beloved professor” and a “loyal friend of freedom-loving Hungarians”. In Hungry, there is a café chain named after him, in which one can see some memorabilia of his life, such as his riding saddle.
There are currently four cafes, three in Budapest and one by the shore of Lake Balaton, where one can go on a Scruton boat. (When I had the pleasure, the boat’s computer malfunctioned and it had to be towed back to the shore.) Moreover, several more cafes are planned in other Hungarian towns. In these cafés, one can purchase Scruton wallpaper, a bust of Sir Roger, badges, lapel pins and t-shirts. The Hungarian Scruton Hub translates his works into Hungarian. They have published books on Scruton, and have podcasts about him (both in Hungarian and English). Sir Roger’s books are read by people in public life in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Indeed, Scruton stock is high in Hungary and when I mention, in both political and academic circles, that I was a postgraduate student of his, the reaction is as if I said I was a friend of a Hollywood star.
Across the pound, in the USA, his books were recommended reading on courses at the Acton Institute’s conference, called Acton University. The Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation was first setup in the USA by Fisher Derderian (a fellow student of Sir Roger’s at the University of Buckingham), who was recently interviewed by Emma Webb on GBNews about Scruton’s legacy.
Is there a touch of Mark 6:4 “A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country” about Sir Roger’s posthumous influence? Well, after his death Boris Johnson called him “the greatest modern conservative thinker”. Theresa May, when she was Prime Minster quoted him in a speech at London Wetland Centre in Barnes on the environment saying: “the goal towards which serious environmentalism and serious conservatism both point – namely, home, the place where we are and that we share, the place that defines us, that we hold in trust for our descendants, and that we don’t want to spoil”.
There have been conferences and seminars about him in the UK, too. Such as the Roger Scruton Memorial Lectures held at the beautiful Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford. There is also a Scrutopia Summer School, which is held at Sundey Hill Farm, (the Scruton family home) that provides a programme that is inspire by his life and work.
Nevertheless, unfortunately, there is a bit of truth in Mark 6:4 about Sir Roger in the UK. (“A prophet is not without honour, but in his own countru.”) Despite the excellent work that the Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation and others are doing, this does not seem to have translated into influence at the top of the current Conservative Party, and among the wider membership and the British public. But it seems that in those countries where Scruton went behind the Iron Curtain, his work and life is not just remembered, he is still actively saving minds.