Having been at Cambridge with the then-delightful Diane Abbott about 40 years ago, I know how hard it is for charming, intelligent black people with middle-class aspirations to make it in the Labour party without great sacrifice. They have to pull grumpy faces, pretend to be angry and claim membership — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — of what Frantz Fanon called ‘the wretched of the earth’.
So one must sympathise with David Lammy — choral scholar of The King’s School, Peterborough, graduate of SOAS and Harvard Law School, member of Lincoln’s Inn, former government minister — as he feels the need to wave his arms about on television and denounce Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg at the top of his voice.
When I recently appeared on BBC Question Time with David he was, off air, merry and friendly — as, in my small experience, he always is. Once the cameras rolled, however, he had his social media fan-base to consider, and soon was shouting wildly about how Boris and Jacob and, indeed, I, are all old Etonians and all in favour of Brexit, and have thus managed to dupe 17.4 million people to vote Leave. There wasn’t time, I decided, to point out that David Cameron, Sir Oliver Letwin, Rory Stewart, Dominic West, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, the present Provost of Eton, Lord Waldegrave, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the late Lord Carrington are all old Etonians and all backed Remain.
At least, however, David stated the truth about which school we attended. Perhaps this did not attract as much attention as he had hoped, however. So this week, he raised the stakes by comparing Boris and Jacob to Nazis. Perhaps they should retaliate by accusing him of being an Etonian. When challenged about his Nazi claim, David said he felt he had not gone far enough. It would expedite our public life if all participants could say straight away and very quickly that they believe all their opponents to be Nazis. We could greet these claims with the same enthusiasm with which we welcome answering systems that say ‘Your call is important to us’. Then we could invite the speakers to talk about something else.
This article is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, available in this week’s magazine.