England riots: David Starkey defends Newsnight remarks

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Media captionNewsnight discussion

Historian David Starkey has defended his views on the England riots and protested that the subject of race has become "unmentionable".

Dr Starkey was criticised for comments he made on the BBC's Newsnight, in which he partly blamed the disorder on black "gangsta" culture.

He said the reaction to his remarks - which included that "the whites have become black" - was "hysterical".

Following last Friday's programme, the BBC has received 892 complaints.

It said viewers who complained felt his contribution to the programme was "inappropriate and racially offensive".

Labour leader Ed Miliband also criticised the historian, saying it was "absolutely outrageous" that someone in the 21st century should be making such comments.

'Lumpen proletariat'

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Dr Starkey commented: "I thought my appearance on Newsnight was supposed to be part of a wide-ranging discussion about the state of the nation.

"Central to any such discussion, it seems to me, are the successes and failures of integration in Britain in the past 50 years. And it was these that I was trying to address."

Admitting that his friends agreed his "greatest error" was mentioning Enoch Powell, whose 1968 "Rivers of Blood" speech attacked immigration, he added that a legacy of the reaction to Powell had been "an enforced silence on the matter of race".

"The subject has become unmentionable, by whites at any rate," he wrote.

"And any breach has been punished by ostracism and worse.

"As the hysterical reaction to my remarks shows, the witch-finders already have their sights on me."

Dr Starkey insisted he had been trying to point out "the very different patterns of integration at the top and bottom of the social scale."

He wrote: "At the top, successful blacks, like (MPs) David Lammy and Diane Abbott have merged effortlessly into what continues to be a largely white elite...

"At the bottom of the heap, the story of integration is the opposite: it is the white lumpen proletariat, cruelly known as the 'chavs', who have integrated into the pervasive black 'gangsta' culture."

He also defended his right to point out problems in the black community.

"If all the people of this country, black and white alike, are to enter fully into our national story, as I desperately hope they will, they must do so on terms of reciprocity.

"In other words, I must be as free to comment on problems in the black community as blacks are to point the finger at whites, which they do frequently, often with justice, and with impunity."

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