Historian’s Hostile Headlines

This month it was a TV historian’s turn to face some angry responses in the media, after making comments which were said to be “deeply offensive”.

Historian David Starkey was interviewed in The Sunday Times and said the Scottish flag was like the swastika and drew comparisons between Hitler’s hatred of Jewish people to the SNP’s view of the English, he went on the claim that SNP supporters were “incapable of recognising that this is national socialism”. Then on Monday in an interview with Sky News, Starkey went further and said; “I’m not saying they’re about to set up concentration camps, I’m not going to say we’re going to see a Kristallnacht of English businesses in Edinburgh, of course we’re not… But the resemblances are striking and are worrying… We’ve spent years fussing in Britain about completely minor fringe things like the BNP… They are nothing compared with the Scottish Nationalist Party, which has seized control of a whole country and is pushing this kind of radical agenda… Lots of people have voted for very unpleasant leaders, I shan’t mention the word Hitler.”

The comments, unsurprisingly very quickly hit the headlines and critics were quick speak up. SNP MP Kirsten Oswald said; “David Starkey’s comments are irresponsible; deeply offensive to the Jewish community, the half of the Scottish electorate who voted SNP last month… and have absolutely no basis in reality. He has become little more than a serial utterer of bile and bilge.”

This wasn’t the first time Starkey has upset people, his comments following the London riots in 2011 were described as “disgusting and outrageous” by former Labour leader Ed Miliband who said the remarks were; “racist comments, frankly, and there is no place for them in our society”. After appearing on the Newsnight programme the BBC apparently received many hundreds of complaints.

Making these kinds of comments in an interview is guaranteed to make them the headline, whatever the story was meant to be about and so Starkey certainly got some media coverage. The question that hasn’t been answered is why he wanted to make them; these acts are sometimes done for publicity around a new book etc but it almost seems in this instance as Starkey simply wanted to say it. The question that’s easier to answer is how his next visit north of the border is likely to be greeted.

Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – June 2015

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