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The global appeal of a very English philosopher

Scruton: ahead of his time. Andy Hall/Getty

“Roger Scruton was a very English philosopher,” says Adrian Wooldridge in Bloomberg, but today he’s more influential elsewhere in the world. Italian PM Giorgia Meloni regularly name-checks the late conservative thinker in her speeches. Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s populist leader, was a friend of Scruton’s and looked “visibly moved” at his funeral in Malmesbury Abbey three years ago. Budapest boasts a chain of Scruton-themed cafes that display memorabilia like his old teapot; many eastern European nationalists dress in the gentlemanly Scruton style of “tweeds and bowties”. America’s Edmund Burke Society, which provides intellectual heft for the “national conservative” movement around Donald Trump, regards Scruton as its “godfather”.

Much of this clout comes from Scruton having been so ahead of his time. In 1980, when conservatives were infatuated with neoliberalism and “had become shills for global corporations”, he published a book defending traditional, small-c conservative values: national identity, traditional architecture, environmentalism. So when the neoliberal elites disgraced themselves in the 2008 financial crisis, his ideas were waiting in the wings. For the eastern European right, those ideas gave force to their battles against Brussels technocrats. And for Meloni, touting Scruton’s thinking in public is low risk compared to Italian conservatism and its “stain of Mussolini”. Crucially, Scruton understood that day-to-day politics is downstream from intellectual and cultural life – “if you want to shape the future of politics you need to shape ideas”.