There was a time when David Lammy wasn’t the provocative rabble-rouser that he is today. Elected as the MP for Tottenham at a by-election in 2000, Lammy spent the first 16 years of his parliamentary career as a thoughtful, measured public servant – someone who was prepared to defy conventional wisdom and challenge orthodox liberal thinking.
His stock rose particularly during the 2011 riots, which were sparked by the death of Mark Duggan in his own constituency. Lammy did not fall into the trap of excusing the mob violence. “Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you can’t know the moral difference between what is right and wrong,” he said at the time.
Neither did he shy away from speaking hard truths about the importance of fatherhood and discipline in the family home. Lammy’s brand of politics, which emphasised the value of relationships, work and community, was a refreshing departure from much of modern Left-wing ideology.
But then the EU referendum happened, and the normally cerebral, analytical Lammy turned into a hysterical, race-baiting alternative version. Within days he was demanding the referendum result be overturned, and he hasn’t been quite right since.
Every public pronouncement seems designed to court controversy, to outdo the last in its hyperbole and level of grandstanding. Lammy’s mania reached its peak on the Andrew Marr show in April when he declared that the comparison he had drawn between the Nazis and the Conservative European Research Group was in fact ‘not strong enough’. And even poor old Stacey Dooley found herself in his crosshairs for the crime of offering her charity to poor Africans.
Lammy’s meltdown over Brexit, his descent into the worst kind of racial politics, and his embrace of the victimhood culture have turned him into something of a caricature whom, sadly, few now take seriously.
He is set to release a book – Tribes – in which he bewails the current polarisation of our society and calls for a rapprochement between estranged and opposing forces.
Changing his own way of doing politics might be a good start.