Diary: Starkey learns the perils of echoing Enoch

  • @andymcsmith

David Starkey provoked a storm of well-earned criticism for the comment he made on Newsnight after the August riots that "the problem is that the whites have become black". But some people with long memories did not think that was the most offensive thing he said in that discussion. Worse was his opening comment: "I've been rereading Enoch Powell, his 'rivers of blood' speech – his prophecy was absolutely right..."

Ever since Powell made that infamous speech in 1968, warning that racial violence was inevitable unless the number of blacks and Asians in the UK was reduced through "repatriation", "Enoch was right" has been a catchphrase for racists.

The jury at the trial of Gary Dobson and David Norris were played a recording of young men, including those two, talking among themselves, discussing their vile fantasies about dismembering and slaughtering black people. At one point, the talk turned to politics, and one of the men remarked: "Do you remember Enoch Powell? That geezer, he knew straight away... He was saying: 'No fucking niggers; they'll ruin the gaff.' And he was right, they fucking ruined it."

Said another: "I want to write him a letter: Enoch Powell, mate, you are the greatest. You are the don of dons."

David Starkey and others of the "Enoch was right" persuasion might like to reflect on the company they are keeping.

The Rime of the ageing marriage fan

Britain's divorce rate is falling. In 2009, it hit its lowest level in 35 years, but it is not coming down fast enough to satisfy Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court judge with many years' experience of marital law.

Interviewed on BBC 5 Live, Sir Paul reflected on how things have changed in his lifetime. "In about 1950, you weren't allowed in the royal enclosure at Ascot if you were divorced," he mused. "That now would exclude half the Royal Family."

Sir Paul was born into an eminent family, so it would be cheap and easy to go through Debrett's and list the number of his relatives who have taken advantage of liberal divorce laws. Two centuries ago, they might have included Sara Coleridge, if only the law then had offered her an escape from her brilliant but opium-addicted father, author of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. But the judge himself is a model of consistency – married once, and with his 40th wedding anniversary not far away.

He has also done more than any other British judge to ensure that when rich men divorce, they pay for it. In one famous case, the insurance mogul John Charman, owner of Axis, believed he was being "fair and reasonable" in offering his estranged wife a £20m payoff after he had taken up with another woman – until the case went to Mr Justice Coleridge, who upped the award to £48m, the largest in British legal history.

Beckham a good talker? No debate

Lauren Pringle, a law student from the tiny Perthshire village of Longforgan, who is currently president of the Oxford University Debating Union, is hoping to add another name to the stream of statesmen, scientists, philosophers and other brilliant people with razor-sharp minds who have addressed that famous body. She has put in a request for David Beckham. "He is inspirational and so many of our members would be really, really keen to meet him," she says.

Not such an easy ride for Boris

Conservative activists are so sure that Boris Johnson will be re-elected London's Mayor this year that only 6 per cent of party members polled by the ConservativeHome website doubted it, while 26 per cent said he would "definitely" win and 68 per cent said "probably".

But that looked less certain yesterday as London commuters went back to work and experienced the 6 per cent hike in fares. This did not escape the Mayor's smart young adviser on youth matters, Einy Shah, who is sometimes spotted cycling around London in a bike emblazoned with the slogan "Honk for Boris".

Yesterday, Ms Shah confided to a friend via Twitter: "It's been a fucking pr disaster for us – thank god for the rain." Unfortunately, instead of pressing the DM button, she sent the tweet out to all her 904 followers, after which it went viral. It could be the best thing that happens to Ken Livingstone all year.