|David Starkey confronts Laurie Penny |
during the Sunday Times Festival of
Education debate on Britishness.
From: Thomas Paine Society
Statement regarding the incident between David Starkey and Laurie Penny, 23 June 2012
The Thomas Paine Society Committee was distressed to hear of last weekends’ altercation between David Starkey and Laurie Penny at the Education Festival. Ad hominem attacks do not move a debate forward about any subject, and we’re sorry to see that it appears both speakers made these.
In February/March this year Starkey and Penny kindly agreed to headline a debate the weekend after the Jubilee in June for expenses only. We also asked a number of other activists, journalists and historians to speak from the floor, and they agreed to this for expenses, although some waived this as well. The event was to be free of charge and open to the public, from whom we were as interested to hear as any of our invitees. Although Starkey was going to open by speaking about the benefits of a constitutional monarchy over a republic, the intention was to get to a more wide-ranging discussion about how people think society should or shouldn’t be governed.
When Penny indicated in the second week of May that she might not be able to get back from the US in time, we tried to find a replacent but couldn’t. We offered to pay her airfare back. By the time she replied to our offer (with the request for an additional fee) however, time was too short to do adequate publicity and we cancelled the event. The timing was the issue not the money [emphasis in original document].
We were shocked at Starkey’s accusation, and disappointed to read later that Penny didn't want to appear at our event anyway. Considering what happened last weekend, however, we seem to have avoided spreading more heat than light on the important topic of democracy and how best to achieve it.
We had looked forward to hosting a lively and interesting afternoon, and hope to find another occasion in which to have this discussion in Paine’s spirit of open inquiry. The Thomas Paine Society is dedicated “To promote the recognition of Thomas Paine’s contribution to the cause of freedom, and to spread knowledge of his work and activities with a view to encouraging the growth of a similar spirit of constructive criticism in every aspect of public life.” At the moment we are involved with two exciting schools projects about Thomas Paine in Sussex and London, and have regular free public events.
The Committee of the Thomas Paine Society
27 June 2012