Historian David Starkey has revealed he is being investigated by police following a controversial interview with Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes.

Dr Starkey, who was born and went to school in Kendal, attracted widespread criticism after he said slavery was not genocide because there are "so many damn blacks" still around.

The comments led to Mr Grimes being investigated by the Metropolitan Police after he published the interview on his YouTube channel Reasoned UK.

Dr Starkey defended Mr Grimes, calling the focus of the investigation into him "unfortunate and grossly unfair".

The 75-year-old said: "Mr Grimes is a young, aspiring journalist and his role in the affair is - at most - secondary.

"I have apologised unreservedly for the words used and I do so again today. It was a serious error for which I have already paid a significant price.

"I did not, however, intend to stir up racial hatred and there was nothing about the circumstances of the broadcast which made it likely to do so."

Dr Starkey said the focus on Mr Grimes "raised fundamental questions" about the freedom of the press and public debate.

Dr Starkey said he would co-operate with police, but added he will "defend myself robustly against any allegation of criminal wrongdoing".

In the original interview with Mr Grimes, which was published online, Dr Starkey said: "Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn't be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?

"An awful lot of them survived and again there's no point in arguing against globalisation or Western civilisation. They are all products of it, we are all products of it.

"The honest teaching of the British Empire is to say, quite simply, it is the first key stage of our globalisation.

"It is probably the most important moment in human history and it is still with us."

Meanwhile, Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, which aims to protect media freedom, said the organisation was "deeply concerned by the threat such an investigation poses to free speech and the chilling effect it could have on the media's ability to interview controversial figures".

Mr Grimes has described the ordeal as chilling if journalists can be held responsible for the words of others if their words cause offence.

And he has received the backing of South Lakes MP Tim Farron.

Mr Grimes said: “I think it’s really quite telling that everyone from Ash Sarkar to Tim Farron are taking issue with the police decision to investigate me for the offence of stirring up racial hatred, which falls under the Public Order Act, this is an unprecedented use of that Act.

“In a free and democratic society, it’s paramount that journalists and broadcasters, no matter if it’s one as big and popular as Good Morning Britain or as small and YouTube-based as my channel Reasoned UK, are permitted to interview a wide range of people, including those likely to make controversial remarks.

“Threatening them with arrest will have a chilling effect on free speech. The public order act was never intended to regulate discussion and debate.”

Mr Farron said: “David Starkey’s comments were appalling, and Darren Grimes should have challenged him on them. At the same time, and there is more to it than meets the eye, I’m deeply concerned that Darren Grimes is now under police investigation as a result of that interview.

“It sets a dangerous precedent.

“Journalists, whether they work for the Sunday Times or the Westmorland Gazette, should be able to report what public figures say without fear of police action.”