David Starkey blasts work-shy Britons during tense GB News debate: 'Profoundly dangerous'

David Starkey blasts work-shy Britons during tense GB News debate: 'Profoundly dangerous'

David Starkey and Scarlett MccGwire clash over the welfare state

Ben Chapman

By Ben Chapman

Published: 02/10/2023

- 20:33

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has pledged welfare reforms

David Starkey and Scarlett MccGwire were embroiled in a feisty GB News debate over the welfare state amid suggestions of sanctions being increased.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said welfare reforms could be key to ending the “vicious circle of ever-raising taxes”.

Hunt reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to making benefits sanctions tougher, while committing to raising the national living wage above £11 an hour.

In a feisty discussion on GB News, historian David Starkey warned about a society that is becoming too used to “indulging” as he lashed out at workshy Britons.

David Starkey and Scarlett MccGwire

David Starkey and Scarlett MccGwire were embroiled in a feisty debate


Former Labour adviser Scarlett MccGwire argued that there are always “exceptions” to the rule, and the welfare state should not be cracked down upon as a result.

Starkey said: “We’ve forgotten great lessons the Victorians told us, they told us ‘less eligibility’.


“If you choose to live on benefits, you should be worse off than any form of employment, that should be the proper rule.

“It’s brutal but it’s necessary. We pay benefits to people in work, it’s demented, it means they’re being underpaid.

“What we’ve done for sentimentality is distort public finances terminally, we are completely out of line with the European line of practice.”

MccGwire hit back, saying Jeremy Hunt only made the arguments during his Tory conference speech as he has “nothing to say”.

Jeremy HuntJeremy HuntPA

She added: “They’ve been talking about benefit shirkers for as long as I remember, but actually it’s tough being on benefits.

“The big bill is pensions, if you [David Starkey] want to do everyone else a favour, you can drop your pension and live off what you get on GB News.”

Starkey snapped back: “I’m happy to confirm I’m on something more substantial.

“It just seems to me that the reason taxes are at an all time peacetime high is because we have let the welfare state skew, it is profoundly dangerous.”

“That’s absolute nonsense”, MccGwire argued.

“We’ve been talking about this since the 1980s and it’s getting increasingly difficult”, she said.

“There is a problem about a mismatch of jobs. This is all about red meat and it is not real.”

Starkey said MccGwire’s assertions are “absurd” as it is the most “basic arithmetic” that taxes would be higher once the welfare state surges.

“Welfare is enormous and I would agree there is a profound danger of pensions getting out of line”, he said.

“The fundamental line is welfare, we never made pensions a funded system, we have catastrophic problems with it.

“We have mismanaged finance grossly, both parties.”

The Chancellor is aiming to bring “fairness” to the benefits system, with new measures in place to support the lowest paid.

The conference continues to be overshadowed by questions over HS2.

Ballooning costs have thrown the scheme’s future into question, with reports suggesting the Tories are readying themselves to announce a scrapping of the Manchester leg of the rail line.

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