Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary has challenged a radio interviewer and Tory « distractions » from racism in a passionate clash over the state of Britain.
David Lammy hit out after being asked by the BBC: « Do you believe there is a thing called white privilege? »
The campaigning MP explained the concept – and argued it was « gaslighting » to ask if privilege or racism exist in Britain today.
He went on to blast Boris Johnson for announcing a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities – but burying it in an article about why Winston Churchill’s statue should not be removed.
Mr Lammy told Radio 4’s Today programme the Tories were trying to « distract » from the real issues.
David Lammy said the Tories were trying to « distract » from the real issues
(Image: Mark Thomas/Shutterstock)
« The only person who wants to focus on Winston Churchill’s statue is the Conservative Party, and frankly it’s bizarre, » he said.
« They want a culture war because they want to distract from the central issue.
« Implement the reviews! Do something! Change it! You’re in power, you’ve been in power for a decade! »
The clash comes after weeks of Black Lives Matter protests against the death of George Floyd, who was killed at the hands of US police.
Boris Johnson has declared « black lives matter » and last night announced a Commission to look at racial inequality in the UK.
Protesters demanding justice for George Floyd, who died at the hands of police
But Mr Lammy branded it a « back of a fag packet » scheme after Mr Johnson failed to announce its timetable, staffing or remit.
He said the PM must announce changes now – and start by implementing dozens of recommendations from past reviews that aren’t yet in place.
A row also erupted because Mr Johnson said he wants to « change the narrative so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination ».
Critics hit back at the PM for mentioning a « sense » of racism as well as the racism itself.
Boris Johnson announced a new Commission but with precious few details
Amid the row, Mr Lammy was asked by BBC interviewer Justin Webb if there was such a thing as « white privilege ».
He replied: « Look, there will be people listening who are working class, who are poor, they may be in northern constituencies – they’re not feeling particularly privileged, they’re having a tough time in a Britain that suffered from austerity.
« But when people talk about white privilege they’re not saying your life isn’t hard or tough or a challenge because of the class issues that remain in Britain – what they’re saying is race is not one of the things that makes it harder.
« And I think in a sense – I feel like I’m being gaslighted if we ask questions like ‘does white privilege or does racism exist’.
« Frankly, given all the art that has been made, all the writing that has been delivered, whether in reviews or black writing, all the comedy that has been made that’s made people laugh – of course those things still exist in our society. The time now is frankly for majority culture to do something about it. »
Mr Lammy went on to say it is « deeply worrying » and « frankly immature » that Britain is still « having a conversation about whether racism actually exists ».
Boris Johnson has argued statues of slave traders, or of Winston Churchill (pictured), should not be torn down
“When you watch a man die like we did in eight minutes and 46 seconds – I’d like to ask Boris Johnson why he thinks the way to commemorate his death is to announce yet another commission, and why he insists on talking about statues.
“The Labour Party isn’t talking about statues. The Lib Dems aren’t calling for Winston Churchill’s statue to be removed. Neither are the Greens, » he added.