David Lammy

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David Lammy

Official portrait of Rt Hon David Lammy MP crop 2.jpg
Lammy in 2019
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
Shadow Lord Chancellor
Assumed office
6 April 2020
LeaderSir Keir Starmer
ShadowingRobert Buckland
Preceded byRichard Burgon
Minister of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
In office
28 June 2007 – 11 May 2010
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byBill Rammell
Succeeded byDavid Willetts (Universities and Science)
Minister of State for Culture
In office
5 May 2005 – 28 June 2007
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byEstelle Morris (Arts)
Succeeded byMargaret Hodge (Culture and Tourism)
Member of Parliament
for Tottenham
Assumed office
22 June 2000
Preceded byBernie Grant
Majority30,175 (64.4%)
Member of the London Assembly as the 8th Additional Member
In office
4 May 2000 – 4 July 2000
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byJennette Arnold
Personal details
David Lindon Lammy

(1972-07-19) 19 July 1972 (age 48)
Holloway, London, England
Political partyLabour
(m. 2005)
Alma materSchool of Oriental and African Studies
Harvard Law School
Lincoln’s Inn
Websitewww.davidlammy.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata

David Lindon Lammy PC FRSA[1] (born 19 July 1972) is a British Labour Party politician serving as Member of Parliament (MP) for Tottenham since 2000, and has served as Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Lord Chancellor in Keir Starmer's Shadow Cabinet since 2020.

Elected to Parliament in 2000, Lammy served as a Minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, most recently as Minister of State for Universities in the Brown ministry.

Early life and education[edit]

Lammy was born on 19 July 1972 in Whittington Hospital in Archway, North London, to Guyanese parents David and Rosalind Lammy.[2][3][4] He and his four siblings were raised solely by his mother, after his father left the family when Lammy was 12 years old. Lammy speaks publicly about the importance of fathers and the need to support them in seeking to be active in the lives of their children.[5] He chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood and has written on the issue.[6][7][8]

Lammy grew up in Tottenham. Having attended a local primary school, at the age of 10 he was awarded an Inner London Education Authority choral scholarship to sing at Peterborough Cathedral and attend The King's School, Peterborough.[9] He studied at the School of Law, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, graduating with a 2:1.[10] Lammy went on to study at Harvard University where he became the first black Briton to attend Harvard Law School; there he studied a Master of Laws degree and graduated in 1997.[11][12] He was called to the bar of England and Wales in 1994 at Lincoln's Inn and practised as a barrister.[13] He practised as an attorney at Howard Rice in California between 1997–1998; and with D.J. Freeman 1998–2000.[4] He is currently a visiting lecturer at SOAS.[14][15]

Political career[edit]

In 2000 he was elected for Labour on the London-wide list to the London Assembly. During the London election campaign Lammy was selected as the Labour candidate for Tottenham when Bernie Grant died. He was elected to the seat in a by-election held on 22 June 2000.[16] Aged 27, he was the youngest Member of Parliament (MP) in the house (Baby of the House) and remained so until 2003 when Sarah Teather was elected.[17]


In 2002, he became Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Health.[18] In 2003, Lammy was appointed as a Minister in the Department for Constitutional Affairs[19] and while a member of the Government, he voted in favour of authorisation for Britain to invade Iraq in 2003.[20] After the 2005 general election Lammy was appointed Minister for Culture at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.[19]

In June 2007, Lammy was appointed as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. In October 2008, he was promoted to Minister of State and was appointed to the Privy Council. In June 2009 until June 2010 when Labour lost the election, he became Minister for Higher Education in the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.[19]

Opposition backbencher[edit]

Lammy in 2017

After Labour lost the 2010 general election a Labour Party leadership contest was announced. During the contest Lammy nominated Diane Abbott, saying that he felt it was important to have a diverse field of candidates,[failed verification] but nonetheless declared his support for David Miliband. After the election of Ed Miliband, Lammy pledged his full support but turned down a post in the Shadow Cabinet, asserting a need to speak on a wide range of issues that would arise in his constituency due to the "large cuts in the public services".[21][failed verification]

In 2010 there were suggestions that Lammy might stand for election as Mayor of London in 2012. Lammy pledged his support to Ken Livingstone's bid to become the Labour London mayoral candidate, declaring him "London's Mayor in waiting".[22] Lammy became Livingstone's selection campaign chair. In 2014, Lammy announced that he was considering entering the race to become Mayor of London in the 2016 election.[23]

Following the party's defeat in the 2015 general election, Lammy was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the Labour leadership election of 2015.[24]

London mayoral candidate[edit]

On 4 September 2014, Lammy announced his intention to seek the Labour nomination for the 2016 mayoral election.[25] In the London Labour Party's selection process, he secured 9.4 per cent of first preference votes and was fourth overall, behind Sadiq Khan, Tessa Jowell, and Diane Abbott.[26]

In March 2016, he was fined £5,000 for instigating 35,629 automatic phone calls urging people to back his mayoral campaign without gaining permission to contact the party members concerned. Lammy apologised "unreservedly" for breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations.[27] It was the first time a politician had been fined for authorising nuisance calls.[28]



Lammy has over the years publicly attributed blame for certain crimes to various specific causes and persons. He has also talked about black and ethnic minority peoples, especially those who are younger, their relation with crime and how they are treated by the criminal justice system.[citation needed]

On 11 August 2011, in an address to Parliament, Lammy attributed part of the cause for England's riots of a few days earlier to destructive 'cultures' that had emerged under the prevailing policies.[29] He also stated that legislation restricting the degree of violence which parents are allowed to use when disciplining their children was partly to blame for current youth culture, that had contributed to the riots.[30]

Lammy has blamed the Prime Minister and Home Secretary for failing to take responsibility over fatal stabbings in London;[31][failed verification] he also blames inequality, high youth unemployment among black males, and local authorities cutting youth services and outreach programmes.[32]

Lammy has stated that the criminal justice system deals with "disproportionate numbers" of young people from black and ethnic minority communities: despite saying that although decisions to charge were "broadly proportionate", he has asserted that black and ethnic minority people still face and perceive bias.[33] Lammy said that young black people are nine times more likely to be incarcerated than "comparable" white people, and proposed a number of measures including a system of "deferred prosecution" for young first time offenders to reduce incarcerations.[34] Lammy has claimed that black and ethnic minority people offend "at the same rates" as comparable white people "when taking age and socioeconomic status into account"; they were more likely to be stopped and searched, if charged more likely to be convicted, more likely to be sent to prison and less likely to get support in prison.[35]

Issues of race, prejudice & equality[edit]

Lammy has commented on Britain's history of slavery.[36][37][38]

He has criticised the University of Oxford for admitting relatively few black students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.[39] He also believes the Windrush scandal concerns injustice to a generation who are British, have made their homes and worked in Britain and deserve to be treated better.[40]

On 5 February 2013, Lammy gave a speech in the House of Commons on why he would be voting in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013, critically comparing the relegation of British same-sex couples to civil partnerships to the "separate but equal" legal doctrine which justified Jim Crow laws in the 20th-century United States.[41]

He has spoken out against alleged antisemitism within the Labour Party and attended an Enough is Enough rally protesting against it. Lammy stated that antisemitism has "come back because extremism has come back" and is damaging support for Labour among Britain's Jewish community.[42] He is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[43]

Lammy recorded the Channel 4 documentary for Remembrance Sunday called The Unremembered: Britain's Forgotten War Heroes which was broadcast on 10 November 2019. In it he reveals how 100,000 or more Africans who died in their own continent serving Britain during WWI were denied the honour of an individual grave, despite the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's reputation for equality.[44]

Other views[edit]

Lammy described the Grenfell Tower fire as "corporate manslaughter" and called for arrests to be made;[45][46] his friend Khadija Saye died in the fire.[47][48] He also criticised the authorities for failing to say how many people had died.[49]

He has written about what he believes to be the shortcomings of the housing market.[50]

Lammy is a staunch advocate of British membership of the European Union. On 23 June 2018, Lammy appeared at the People's Vote march in London to mark the second anniversary of the referendum to leave the European Union. The People's Vote is a campaign group calling for a public vote on the final Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union.[51]

He supports shared parental leave which he maintains would "normalise" fathers being an equal caregiver with the mother, and would mean they become more involved in the raising of children, arguing that the barriers to "fathers playing a deeper role in family life" are not just legislative, but also cultural. He points out Scandinavian countries such as Sweden as examples of where governments have successfully made this happen, which he states has also helped increase gender equality.[5][52]

Comments attracting criticism[edit]

In 2013, Lammy accused the BBC of making a "silly innuendo about the race" on Twitter during the announcement of the next Pontiff where the BBC tweeted "will smoke be black or white?" in reference to smoke above the Sistine Chapel. Lammy criticised the BBC's tweet as "crass and unnecessary.” He subsequently apologised after other Twitter users pointed out the role played by black and white smoke in announcing the election of a new Pope.[53][54]

In January 2016 Lammy claimed that one million Indians sacrificed their lives during the Second World War, not for the survival of Britain and to fight Nazism, but instead for the "European Project."; the statement was strongly criticised and ridiculed by The Spectator.[55][56]

In January 2019 Lammy described Rod Liddle having a column in a weekly newspaper as a "national disgrace" and accused Liddle of having “white middle class privilege” for expressing the view that absent fathers played a role in violent crime involving black youths.[57] Writing in an article for The Spectator, Liddle disputed Lammy's claim that he was raised in a family reliant on tax credits, which were not introduced in the United Kingdom until Lammy was aged 31.[58]

In February 2019 Lammy criticised Stacey Dooley for photographs she posted on social media of her trip to Uganda for Comic Relief, and said that "the world does not need any more white saviours", and that she was "perpetuating 'tired and unhelpful stereotypes' about Africa".[59][60] He also stated however, that he does not question her "good motives".[61] The donations received for the Red Nose Day broadcast in March 2019 fell by £8 million and the money raised that year was the lowest since 2007, which some have blamed on Lammy's remarks. Critics of his view included Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales[62] and Conservative Party MP Chris Philp.[63] Lammy responded to criticism with a statement in which he referred to the decline in donations being due to contributing factors of austerity, declining viewing figures, trends in the charity sector and format fatigue and that he hoped his comments "would inspire the charity to refresh its image and think harder about the effects its output has on our perceptions of Africa".[64]

Lammy sparked further controversy when he likened opposing the policies of the European Research Group to opposition to the Nazi Party during the Second World War and South African apartheid while speaking at an anti-Brexit rally. When asked by broadcaster Andrew Marr in April 2019 if he stood by the comments, Lammy responded by claiming the comparisons "didn’t go far enough,"[65][66] and proceeded to compare politicians Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to Nazis, referencing Johnson's alleged contact with Steve Bannon, before adding, "I don't care how elected they were, so were the far right in Germany." Conservative Party MP Conor Burns criticised the comments by saying "I used to have regard for David Lammy. But this is batshit. Comparing ERG to Hitler is quite something. Fully lost it."[67] Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard also described Lammy's comments as "shockingly inappropriate."[68][69]

The politician also attracted criticism for arguing that the Grenfell Tower fire was solely "a failure on social housing, a failure to protect poor people in state housing". Speaking to Channel 4 News on the publication of the Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry in October 2019, Lammy said that "in a fancy penthouse in Chelsea, this would not have happened". LGA building safety spokesman Lord Porter said that the same fire hazards apply to all high-rise residential buildings, regardless of who lives in them, and that Lammy was unhelpfully politicising the issue by emphasising class.[70]

Personal life[edit]

Lammy married the artist Nicola Green in 2005;[71] the couple have two sons and a daughter.[72][73] Lammy is a Christian.[74][75] He is also a Tottenham Hotspur F.C. fan.[76] He states that his identity is "British, English, ... a Londoner ... [but] also European".[75]

In November 2011, he published a book, Out of the Ashes: Britain After the Riots, about the August 2011 riots.[77]

Lammy has regularly been included in the Powerlist as one of the most influential people in the UK of African/African-Caribbean descent, including the most recent published in 2020.[78]


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External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Bernie Grant
Member of Parliament for Tottenham
Preceded by
Chris Leslie
Baby of the House
Succeeded by
Sarah Teather
Political offices
Preceded by
Estelle Morris
as Minister of State for the Arts
Minister of State for Culture
Succeeded by
Margaret Hodge
as Minister of State for Culture and Tourism
Preceded by
Bill Rammell
Minister of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
Succeeded by
David Willetts
as Minister of State for Universities and Science
Preceded by
Richard Burgon
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
Shadow Lord Chancellor