Son of Guyanese woman named UK minister
By John Mair in London
June 1, 2002
Articles on people
'Events dear boy, events', Prime Minister Harold Macmillan used to say about politics. The demise of one British Cabinet minister is the good fortune of others. Steven 'Liar' Byers (as the popular press dubbed him) resigned as Transport Minister on Tues-day. On Wednesday, the subsequent ministerial reshuffle (a concept foreign to Guyanese) led to the rise to the top of the first ever black British Cabinet Minister Paul Boateng, the son of a Tribal Chief from Ghana, former socialist firebrand but now Chief Secretary to the Trea-sury in Tony Blair's cabinet.
On his coat-tails, yet another black MP was made a government minister. This time one of Afro-Guyanese descent - David Lammy. His promotion to the first rung of the ministerial ladder - Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Health at the tender age of 29 is nothing short of meteoric. He has been MP (for Tottenham in North London) for just two years. He succeeded another prominent Guyanese, Bernie Grant in that seat on his death.
But he and Bernie are very, very different political animals. Bernie the rabble rouser who refused to compromise, Old Labour. David the boy from the back streets who went to public school and Harvard and is the very epitome of New Labour. Opponents call him 'The black Tony Blair'. He is a man of firsts: the first black Briton to go to Harvard Law School, the youngest ever barrister to qualify and the youngest MP in the current House of Commons.
Lammy's route to political success was an unconventional one. Born and brought up in Tottenham, his Guyanese mother was single and brought up four children on state benefits. In his own words: "I know what it is like to be brought up by a working, single mother, surviving on a low income".
But with that strong Guyanese mother and a big break - he got a choir scholarship to King's School, Peterborough (an elite boarding school) on the basis of his singing in the church gospel choir - he made it out of the ghetto.
Then law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, and Harvard law School. Followed by doing articles in one of the Inns of Court in London. Some legal experience in Canada and London and a political career, locally and nationally.
Lammy fits the New Labour bill, a dedicated Christian and the only black member of a committee set up last year by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to develop a vision for the future for the Church of England.