For the Jewish News by Jenni Frazer September 3 2015
Of all the candidates running for mayor of London, David Lammy’s contact with the Jewish community may go back the furthest.
It dates to a meeting he had at the solicitors’ firm, DJ Freeman, when after taking a first-class degree at SOAS, Lammy had become the first black Briton to enter Harvard Law School. He couldn’t afford the fees, but several of the Jewish partners of the firm helped him, setting up firm friendships which have lasted to this day.
He became MP for Tottenham in 2000, and speaks warmly of his “great pride” in representing communities in Stamford Hill. “I have dealt with the Charedi community,” says Lammy, “during high and low periods”, and the way he speaks of Charedim and his use of other Jewish and Hebrew terms testify to a knowledgeable familiarity with London’s Jews.
Like Sadiq Khan, Lammy nominated Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader, a move which he says he made in order to widen the debate. “I wanted all views around the table. Jeremy is my parliamentary neighbour and I have known him for many years, but I absolutely recognise that there is real and genuine concern about some of the statements he has made, particularly about Hamas, and about the possibility of platforms shared with Holocaust deniers. I would want to condemn that and I sense a genuine fear and concern in the Jewish community.”
He adds: “We will have to act soon or risk a real chasm between the Jewish community and the Labour Party. Some of [Corbyn’s supporters’ positions] are inconsistent with a party which has always been anti-racist and anti-anti-Semitic”.
Lammy, a practising Christian whose wife photographed the former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, during his last year in office, says: “It is clear to me that the next mayor of London will be an individual who can speak to all London communities, where everyone feels secure and where everyone has a stake.” He lost one of his closest friends, James Adams, in the 7/7 bombing, and is fiercely anti-terrorist and anti-extremist.
He is a long-standing member of Labour Friends of Israel and has declared publicly that if he becomes mayor, he will lead his first trade mission to Israel. Meanwhile he is making friends across the Jewish community and addressed Limmud last December and has good relations with Kisharon, the former ambassador Daniel Taub, and current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
On his agenda is a huge improvement in housing, particularly social housing, and more support for young people – he chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood and speaks warmly of Jewish community respect for parenting and the importance of family life.
Lammy positively lights up when he talks of going to spend Shabbat dinner with his family and Jewish friends.
• Other Labour candidates for London mayor: Diane Abbott, Gareth Thomas, Christian Wolmar.