On Friday 7th December the Financial Times published an interview with me about inequality education, entrenched privilege, university access and university access - 'David Lammy: We have to redress the balance'.
I have copied excerpts from the interview below:
Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary educated at Eton and Oxford, is not a person many would consider a likely recipient of affirmative action. But his name is invoked by David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham in north London as he rails against the system of privilege and unconscious bias that, he says, allows people like Mr Johnson to rise to the top.
Mr Lammy is animated and impassioned on what he describes as “social apartheid” in the UK. “You have to redress the balance,” he says, sitting in a sunlit room at Portcullis House, overlooking the Houses of Parliament. “When I mention affirmative action people tend to say to me, ‘Oh no, no. We can’t preference black people over white people.’ What I’m saying, is I have met middle-class white men like Boris Johnson who are the beneficiaries of affirmative action every single day of their lives and they’re not even aware of it.”
Mr Lammy does not want to address race alone. He wants to build an education system that encourages all those who get “pushed to the side”, including the socially and economically disadvantaged, “particularly in the north of England, in the seaside towns, and in some ethnic minority groups”.
He recalls a conversation with a teacher from the town of Gateshead near Newcastle, who told him it cost a fortune to bring 20 students to Oxford or Cambridge even for a visit to see what they are like. “That broke my heart,” Mr Lammy says: “because . . . if you’re in my constituency you can get to Cambridge relatively easily, but that’s quite hard from the north-east”.
He is tempted to put in another FOI request, he says, this time to find out how much Oxford spends on the port that it serves at its colleges’ formal dinners. “I’ve got a feeling,” he says, “it’s more than the travel for those kids to come from Gateshead.”