David Lammy worked as a barrister before joining parliament and becoming an outspoken critic of continuing social injustice
He went on to read law at SOAS, University of London, and was among the first black Britons to study at Harvard University, US, where he obtained a master’s degree in law. He was called to the Bar in 1994 at Lincoln’s Inn. After MP Bernie Grant’s sudden death in 2000, David was selected as the Labour candidate for Tottenham and elected to parliament in June of that year.
He went on to hold several ministerial posts for Labour until its defeat in 2010. These included Junior Minister for Culture, Parliamentary Under-secretary of State in the department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, and Junior Minister of Education for the same department. In his failed bid to become Labour’s candidate for London Mayor in 2015, he came fourth behind the eventual winner, Sadiq Khan.
Throughout his parliamentary career he has often spoken out on crime, its causes and its impact on communities, in particular in his own constituency. While claiming that a glamorisation of violence, a fixation on clothing brands and a gang culture warped notions of loyalty, he also highlighted racial bias in the criminal justice system.
Commissioned by the Conservative government in 2017, his Lammy Review revealed that the proportion of young black and Asian people in prisons has increased from 25 per cent to 41 per cent, prompting his call for significant reform.
He has also been critical of Oxford University’s low admission of black students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, calling it “social apartheid”.
In 2017 he made the headlines again following the Grenfell fire tragedy, which claimed the lives of 72 people, including his friend, the artist Khadija Saye. Describing the inferno as “corporate manslaughter” he called for arrests to be made.
In 2018 David lambasted the government’s response to the so-called Windrush scandal in which hundreds of migrants who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean as children were rendered stateless by the a ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy. In an emotional speech to parliament he called it a “national shame”.