Fitzwilliam College fellow Starkey provokes another racism row

Ben Richardson – News Editor 26 June 2012

Rochdale sex ring acted “within their cultural norm”: Starkey clashes with Penny over “racist” comments

Honorary Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge David Starkey has courted controversy once again after making more racially divisive comments in a public debate at Wellington College.

As a guest panelist at the Festival of Education on Sunday evening, Starkey claimed the Pakistani men behind the recently exposed child exploitation ring in Rochdale had values “entrenched in the foothills of the Punjab”. He went on to say that the men needed to be “inculcated in the British way of doing things.” This comes in addition to earlier comments this month in which Starkey accused the sex gang of “acting within their cultural norm”.

Starkey’s comments were swiftly rebuffed by Laurie Penny, a radical blogger and columnist for The Independent, who accused him of “playing xenophobia and national prejudice for laughs”. She went on to brand him a “racist” and a “bigot” provoking Starkey who, while standing over Penny and jabbing his finger, said that he would not be lectured from “a jumped-up public schoolgirl” and accused her of being as low as a “mean and grasping runt comedian” (a possible reference to Jimmy Carr). He went on to deride her for the exorbitant fee she had demanded for her presence at a similar event, which, he claimed, had forced it to be cancelled.

Shortly afterwards, Starkey’s partner James Brown leapt on to the stage to harangue Penny further, joined by Claire Fox, the director of the Institute of Ideas think tank, who had earlier heckled Penny from the audience, calling her a disgrace to feminism. The chaplain of the school Tim Novia called an abrupt halt to proceedings shortly afterwards.

This is the second time in a year in which Starkey, who gained a first and a PhD in history at Fitzwilliam College, has attracted racist accusations. Last August, while appearing as a guest on Newsnight, Starkey claimed the “whites have become black” and that the London riots were symptomatic of “a particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion” in British society.

Starkey is not the only public figure to attract criticism for suggesting the Rochdale crimes were racially motivated. Jack Straw, the former Home Secretary, was chastised last year after claiming the existence of a “specific problem, which involves Pakistani men” who see young white girls as “easy meat”.

The Rochdale sex trafficking gang was a group of men who preyed in underage teenage girls in Rochdale Manchester. The group targeted underage girls around from deprived, dysfunctional backgrounds.  Nine defendants were jailed for a total of 77 years in May, with the ringleader, a 59-year-old man from Oldham, receiving a 19-year term after being convicted of two rapes, aiding and abetting rape, sexual assault and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Ben Richardson – News Editor