The historian steadfastly refused to buckle despite Miss Soubry's continual heckling. Bravo David. The Conservative MP shook her head - vigorously so, rolled her eyes. sighed, pouted, interjected - in fact tried every trick in the book to put the historian off his stride. But Starkey is made of sterner stuff. The tory zealot found herself rebuffed in fine style.
The bone these two were fighting over was the tricky question as to whether a 16 year-old girl could 'groom' a 44 year-old man. For that is how the judge had described the relationship between a teacher and pupil when this particular case had come to court recently. Put simply a male teacher had, according to the judge, been seduced by a female pupil - 'groomed' was the word she had specifically used.
The panel of course were horrified. Soubry more than most. How, they asked, could a 16 year-old girl possibly seduce a 44 year-old man? "Impossible," said the Labour MP, the Huffington Post journalist nodded his agreement. Another member of the panel seemed incredulous, going on to add that his own daughter would never even think of doing such a thing. Cliche followed cliche. At this point you feared for Soubry's head. She was nodding it so much that for one dreadful moment it looked as if it might detach from her shoulders and roll off onto the floor, from where no doubt it would have continued to hold forth.
"Ridiculous," declared Soubry, bouyed on by her disbelieving colleagues sat around the QT table. "There is absolutley no way a 16 year old girl could groom an older man," said the Minister for Defence in a voice that was starting to gravitate towards those cruelly compassionate tones of Thatcher. And she meant it. Oh yes. The eyes, the head, the voice: This woman knew she was right. Sixteen year-old girls able to flirt, seduce or God forbid, go any further? Utterly preposterous thought.
Soubry's world you see is a black and white one of middle class privelege where children (girls) are innocent and where adults (men) are wicked. For in the leafy suburbs and ivory towers of Soubry-land the interests of 16 year old girls do not stretch further than their ponies and gymkhanas. Teenage pregnancies? Heaven forfend!
Amidst this deafening chorus of dissaproval one man stood bravely up. "Yes, a 16-year old girl is more than capable of seducing an older man..." said Starkey. but before he could continue Soubry sprung upon him, hackles on end.
The poor man was subjected to a barrage of indignation from the Conservative MP: "What this man did was absolutely immoral, disgusting and in no way can be justified," growled Soubry now well entrenched on the moral high ground.
"Nobody is saying the teacher acted correctly," retorted Starkey, but Soubry was having none of it. The historian tried to counter the MP's hysteria by raising his own voiice: "The question was: Is a 16 year old girl capable of seducing a grown man...and the answer is yes," said a ruffled Starkey, realising that he was now swimming against a rising tide of moral outrage.
Soubry didn't want to hear that. With a deft move that would have had the approval of Houdini, she once more tore into the morality of the male teacher. Starkey then came under attack from an equally incensed member of the audience who spouted some cliche or other about the responsibility of adults. You could almost see Starkey wanting to scream "Oh what;s the f****** point!"
It was a little like mob rule with Soubry as chief architect of the onslaught. The mob had, in their wisdom, clearly decided that a 16 year old girl is quite incapable of seducing an older man. "This idolisation of children is taking us back to Victorian times," added Starkey, attempting to put the debate in a broader, historical context. But it was no use. The mob, with Soubry at their helm, had spoken. Starkey sought refuge in his glass of water.
Using the aegis of moral outrage, Soubry had silenced the one voice of dissension. Scary. Here is a woman who could easily give fellow zealot Harriet Harman a run for her money when it comes to pious indignation.
So, there you are. Apparently 16-year old girls are totally innocent in the ways of the world, paragons of virtue, blushing virgins one and all. At least that''s what the Anna Soubrys of this world, sat in their lofty middle-class towers, would have us think.
Maybe though Starkey is wrong after all. Maybe the daughters of middle class tory MPs are indeed paragons of virtue, but somehow I doubt it.
Full marks to David Starkey for standing up to this bullying zealot who really does believe she knows best. If Soubry had her way, opinions that don't coalesce with her own bleeding heart views would be marginalised and even better silenced altogether.
I never thought I would ever say this, but thank god for people like Mr Starkey who refuse to wilt under the battering ram of political correctness wielded by the likes of Soubry.
David Starkey, take a bow.