Starkey raving bonkers! Historian accused of racism on riots

David Starkey's TV career in the balance after he says Enoch Powell was right and that 'whites' have become 'black'

The historian David Starkey was fighting to save his lucrative TV career last night after he claimed that the riots were the result of "black culture" and that whites involved in the disturbances "have become black".

In a discussion on BBC 2's Newsnight, Mr Starkey said the civil disturbances had realised Enoch Powell's prediction in 1968 that mass immigration in Britain would lead to "rivers of blood".

There was speculation that his comments would damage his television career as sources at Channel 4, the channel where he made his name, said there was "nothing in the schedule" for programmes featuring Mr Starkey, while Krishnan Guru-Murthy, a prominent presenter on Channel 4 News, questioned whether the historian had "lost it".

His fellow guest on Newsnight, the author Owen Jones, last night went further, saying that Mr Starkey's TV career "has ended and it has ended in disgrace".

The historian, an honorary fellow of Cambridge University, also said the Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, an "archetypal successful black man", sounded "white"; and that Jamaican patois had left "so many of us" feeling England was "literally a foreign country".

The comments on Friday evening left Mr Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, and another guest, the author and broadcaster Dreda Say Mitchell, apparently stunned.

Mr Starkey, an expert on the Tudor period, is most famous for the Channel 4 series Monarchy and more recently featured in Jamie's Dream School, but has also made programmes for BBC TV and radio.

In the Newsnight discussion, Mr Starkey said: "I think what this week has shown is that profound changes have happened. There has been a profound cultural change. I have just been re-reading Enoch Powell. His prophecy was absolutely right in one sense: the Tiber didn't foam with blood, but flames lambent wrapped around Tottenham, wrapped around Clapham.

"But it wasn't intercommunal violence; this was where he was completely wrong. What has happened is that the substantial section of the chavs that you [Mr Jones] 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.

"Listen to David Lammy, an archetypal successful black man. If you turn the screen off, so you were listening to him on radio, you would think he was white."

Ms Say Mitchell challenged Mr Starkey's remarks, saying: "You keep talking about 'black' culture – black communities are not homogenous groups. Stop putting this blame on one culture."

Mr Jones said the comments were "utterly outrageous" and that viewers would find his comments "offensive generalisations".

And he told The Independent on Sunday: "I think we are in the middle of a very dangerous time. There is a backlash going on and he has introduced race into the debate in a very inflammatory way.

"We cannot dismiss him as a buffoon. I think there should be no platform to espouse these sorts of outrageous views based on prejudice, not fact, and incitement of racial hatred. His career has come to an end and it has ended in disgrace."

Mr Lammy, whose constituency saw the outbreak of rioting a week ago, said: "His views are irrelevant – he's a Tudor historian talking about contemporary urban unrest."

A Channel 4 spokesman said the company would not comment on remarks made by Mr Starkey on the BBC. But Mr Guru-Murthy tweeted: "Wow. Starkey blames black culture. Has he finally lost it?"

However, Nick Griffin, MEP for the British National Party, said on Twitter that he was "wondering whether to make David Starkey an honorary Gold Member for his Newsnight appearance".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own