David Starkey’s ‘racist comments’ provoke storm of protest

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by a Newsnet reporter

The BBC has been deluged by complaints about comments made by controversial broadcaster and constitutional historian David Starkey.  Speaking during a discussion about the riots in England on BBC2’s Newnight programme last Wednesday, Dr Starkey said that “whites have become black” and added that “a particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion”.

Critics have complained that the historian clearly saw rioting and social disturbance as being a problem specific to or caused by the Black community.

Mr Starkey’s comments were condemned by Labour leader Ed Miliband.  Speaking during a visit to his former school in Chalk Farm in London,  Mr Miliband said that these were “racist comments, frankly, and there is no place for them in our society,” adding that it was “absolutely outrageous that someone in the 21st Century could be making that sort of comment.  There should be condemnation from every politician, from every political party of those sorts of comments.”  

Dr Starkey was taking part in a discussion with the author Owen Jones, who wrote the book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Classes which explored issues around the class snobbery and prejudice faced by the working classes in the UK.  

Addressing himselfto Mr Jones, Mr Starkey said: “What has happened is that the substantial section of the ‘chavs’ that you wrote about have become black.  The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion.

“Black and white, boy and girl operate in this language together.  This language, which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has intruded in England.  This is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.”

Dr Starkey went on to add the Tottenham MP David Lammy, whose parents are from Guyana, sounded white.  “If you turn the screen off, so you were listening to him on radio, you would think he was white.”

Dr Starkey previously attracted widespread oppobrium in Scotland over his ill-informed and insulting remarks about Scottish history and culture.  During an appearance on BBC1’s Question Time in 2009, Dr Starkey referred to Scotland as “a feeble little country” and categorised Robert Burns as a “deeply boring provincial poet”.  He added: “What the Scots and Welsh are, are typical small nations with a romantic 19th Century-style nationalism.”

Dr Starkey refused to apologise for his remarks on that occasion.

The BBC said that Mr Starkey’s recent comments had prompted complaints from 696 viewers.  The complainants felt the remarks were “inappropriate and racially offensive”.