David Lammy’s Labour lament

David Lammy's Labour lament
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Foreign affairs is a difficult brief, demanding tact, sober judgement and discretion of the highest order. So who best to embody all these qualities than Labour's recently promoted man of the hour, David Lammy? The Shadow Foreign Secretary made his first diplomatic foray this week while appearing at this year’s Limmud festival, a Jewish event where he attempted to atone for the sins of his past. 

The Talleyrand of Tottenham apologised to his audience for being one of the 35 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for leader in 2015, declaring that 'If I knew what I do now, I never would have nominated him... I never believed he would become leader. That was a mistake and I am sorry for that.' Criticising antisemitism within the party, Lammy claimed he was 'staggered' that some individuals with such views remain in the party, but added he was 'fully behind' Keir Starmer's leadership, saying: 'I don’t believe the overall culture is toxic any more … but until the party is genuinely welcome for everyone, we remain on a journey.'

Such earnest hand-wringing went down well with some sections of the press, convinced such 'honest' abasement is necessary to 'move on' from the Corbyn years. Harder cynics noted that's it easy to be contrite after the event and that, if Lammy really was so concerned about the Magic Grandpa's leadership, he could quite easily have joined his Change UK colleagues in defecting. Instead of course, he opted to remain a Labour backbencher campaigning to put Corbyn, Milne et al in No. 10, tweeting praise of his dear leader and keeping shtum for much of the past five years. 

For the fawning tributes which Lammy paid to Corbyn during the latter's reign of error are still online, such as his praise for his leader's 2017 conference speech: 'Bloody brilliant. Jeremy Corbyn is heading to No. 10.' In July 2018, four months after Corbyn's craven response to the Salisbury poisonings, Lammy told Alastair Campbell in GQ magazine that:

He’s a bloody good constituency MP. We work on a number of things together. So is he still my friend? He is. We text each other. We talk about theatre, things way beyond politics... I think Jeremy Corbyn is going to be prime minister. I’ve been saying that for a long time... I have avoided the party warfare stuff and I am not about to get into it now. It is not in the interests of my constituents. It is not really David Lammy. It is not what people expect from David Lammy.

Even after the humiliating 2019 defeat, Lammy was able to tell an event dedicated to Bernie Grant in March 2020 that 'I so wish Bernie had been alive to see his great friend Jeremy Corbyn become leader of the Labour party' before salivating over Corbyn's speech: 'I know the words are going to be powerful, I can't wait for every single sentence and hope that this speech will be published.' Fine words – all the more jarring in light of Lammy's local Haringey branch having a well-publicised problem with antisemitism during the Corbyn years.

Steerpike looks forward to the Tottenham MP demonstrating similar fealty to the leadership of Starmer, who he's now 'fully behind' – until he loses. After all, it is what people expect from David Lammy.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

Topics in this articlePoliticsdavid lammylabour