"Why I became an MP" - an interview with Operation Black Vote

Below is an article for Operation Black Vote, published on 25/10/2011 [link] where David discusses why he became an MP.

It was during the Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham back in 1985 that David Lammy MP made a decision which may have shaped the path he has taken in life.

The riots were triggered by the death of Cynthia Jarrett, who suffered a stroke after police officers searched her home. The place was turned into a warzone, with local youths clashing with riot police, which resulted in PC Keith Blakelock losing his life.

Mr Lammy, 13-years-old at the time, looked at the devastation around him and could have so easily been swayed to join those taking the fight to the authorities.

But he decided not to hurl a brick or a petrol bomb at the police, perhaps knowing he could make a difference, make a stand, make his voice heard in another way.

It was just 15 years after the riots which devastated Tottenham that Mr Lammy took his seat in Parliament as MP for Tottenham, winning the by-election in 2000 following the unfortunate death of Bernie Grant.

And Mr Lammy is glad he made a decision to not take part in the violence, instead pursuing a path where he could become the voice for a community which was devastated once again following the recent disturbances in London and other cities around England which were triggered off by the killing of local man Mark Duggan at the hands of the police in Tottenham in August.

Lammy told OBV in an exclusive interview,

"I made a decision when I was a teenager, whether I would go with the mob who wanted to throw petrol bombs in the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots and I decided in my heart I couldn't do it. And 25 years later, I’m so glad I made that decision, it meant that I was able to stand up on behalf of the 10,000 young people who weren't on the streets, they were at home, and on behalf of most of my constituents and condemn what happened because to burn down the business of immigrants who get up in the morning, working hard and go to bed late at night, that was unacceptable. I've learnt a lot about myself but it goes back to your childhood, how you were raised and the decisions you made back then."

His drive to become a politician and try to affect change was the result of wanting to make a difference.

He said,

"I was inspired by people who said ‘you can't do it, you can't be an MP, not from your background’. But in the end, I grew up at a tough time in Tottenham’s history and I wanted to make a difference in my community and be the bridge, a voice for them. I did that very recently in the summer. But the journey hasn't been easy and I could write book about some of the obstacles of discrimination. But that’s a story for another day."

Mr Lammy was speaking at the launch of the Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme organised by Operation Black Vote in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The scheme looks to challenge the low number of BME MPs in Parliament by nurturing a new generation of leaders from the Black community by giving them the opportunity to see life in Westminster and in the constituency, understand the policy process and become a Parliamentary Ambassador, encouraging others to get involved.

Mr Lammy said,

"I think this (scheme) is hugely important. (Parliament) is the House of Representatives; it is not representative of the nation. More people need to be engaged, more people need to be involved and I think the shadowing scheme opens the place up. People go back to their neighbourhoods, back to their friends, back to their families, they themselves feel lifted up and hopefully over time more of them will be engaged in the political process."

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