Custom Search 1

Thank God for David Lammy

REDEEMED: David Lammy

AS A black writer writing in the black press, there are few topics more critical to cover than the conduct and performance of black politicians in relation to the black community.

These are, after all, people who – directly or indirectly - draw their power and influence from the community they emerged from. And therefore, have some degree of responsibility to said community. The purpose of attaining political power from the people is to empower the people.

Representation matters - and matters even more so for members of historically oppressed minority groups. For a long time, Britain’s black community was woefully represented by its national level politicians. And in this sea of woefulness there was no bigger a credible let down than David Lammy, MP for Tottenham.

With that said, I declare an interest: as disappointing as he was no one, possibly no one in politics has had to stomach harsher words in the black press than the words I wrote about David Lammy on a consistent basis over successive years between 2010 - 2015. I cut very deep.

I accused David Lammy of “personifying the quantitative diversity with zero qualitative effect phenomenon”, of having “extremely poor judgement”, of having “no real-world experience”, of “being politically useless to the black community”, of “opposing justice and reparations” and so on. In short, I accused him of pretty much everything but the 9-11 attacks.

When I met David Lammy for the first time in 2015 and introduced myself to him, he immediately remembered my name and became quite defensive. “I remember you! You’ve written some very strong articles about me. You don’t know anything about me…!” he said as he poked me in the chest.

To be fair I deserved the poke in the chest in the same way he deserved my harsh words. But I didn’t write about David Lammy to mock him but to make him better. To push him to be the great leader we could all see that he had the ability to be.

David was occupying a parliamentary seat previously occupied by the most revered and effective politician in the history of black Britain: Bernie Grant. And he just wasn’t delivering or representing or inspiring in a manner in which he should.

Lammy occupied Bernie’s seat but he didn’t occupy our hearts and minds like Bernie did. Simply because he was trying to be a conventional politician. But that is just not possible given the unconventional nature of the black community and the area which he represented.
That was then and this is now.

David Lammy is now quite clearly an entirely changed being. He has very clearly turned a corner. Gone are the days of appeasement. Gone are the days of the stench of a great pretender. Gone are the days of pretty much treating the black community like an ugly sidepiece. David Lammy has gone from a political minion to mammoth.

With some ease, David Lammy is today the best politician in the land. His excellent landmark review on to the treatment of black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system, his work on addressing the burning blatant issues of diversity in the media, his leadership on the criminal Grenfell atrocity, his leadership of the racist Windrush scandal and now his leadership on the issue of reparations (which his voice will help take from a fringe issue to a mainstream one) have all set him apart from his peers.

What we appear to be witnessing is a Saul to Paul, Malcolm Little to Malcolm X style transformation. As a result, some would probably dismissively describe neo-Lammy as a ‘black radical’. But exactly what is a black radical? It is just a very ‘normal’ black person who was subjected to or witnessed some form of unspeakable racism. After that sting of injustice something snaps in you. And David Lammy has quite clearly snapped.

Something changed in him or changed him. It is not clear what it is but whatever it is – assuming it is not too traumatic - is somewhat welcome as it was a necessity. It needed to happen.

As stated earlier, representation matters. And now we know we have a series of black MPs we feel we can bank on for strong and robust representation. Foremost amongst them is Lammy but we must not forget Kate Osamor, Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Clive Lewis, Marsha de Cordova and so on.

David Lammy is proof that we must not give up on each other. That we can turn a corner. So I guess there is still some hope for Kwasi Kwarteng, Shaun Bailey and the other black apologists for the racist Windrush scandal.

Nels Abbey is a writer and media executive. He was previously a columnist for The Voice. His debut book ‘Think Like A White Man’ will be released on October 4, 2018 on Canongate Books.

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments