Why Laurie Penny called David Starkey 'racist' - and what came next
Radical journalist got into furious row with TV historian after 'foothills of the Punjab' remarks
THANK GOODNESS for David Starkey: without him, there might not have been that much to say about The Sunday Times's - doubtless worthy - Festival of Education. As it is, the paper has a story and two journalists have a little more publicity.
Apparently angered by a remark he made about the group of Asian men from Rochdale convicted for grooming white girls for sex, blogger and writer Laurie Penny yesterday called Starkey a "racist" and a "bigot" and suggested, without any apparent evidence, that he dabbled in tax avoidance, provoking a furious response from the TV historian.
The trouble began when Penny, a radical left-wing journalist who provoked anger with her gonzo coverage of last summer's riots, was in the audience for a session featuring Starkey.
Discussing the Rochdale criminals (not for the first time) Starkey said their values were "entrenched in the foothills of the Punjab or wherever it is" and that they needed to be "inculcated in the British ways of doing things".
Penny spoke up from the audience in reaction to that, but the row really got going when she joined him on stage for a later session – a panel discussion of Britishness.
Penny accused Starkey of "playing xenophobia and national prejudice for laughs". To shouts from the audience of "Keep going! Keep going!" she made an argument about Starkey's tax status.
As the paper reports, Starkey walked over to Penny and "jabbed his finger at her face", telling her: "I will not be lectured by a jumped-up public schoolgirl like you!"
He said he objected to being compared to a "mean and grasping runt comedian", suggesting perhaps that Jimmy Carr's name has been so traduced by recent revelations about his perfectly legal tax avoidance that comparison to the stand-up comic is now the worst imaginable insult.
After the event, Penny said: "David Starkey is a troll and that’s what trolls do. He’s a bigot and that’s what bigots do. When you call a racist a racist, you get attacked."