A senior Labour politician and London mayoral hopeful has given voice to fears that anti-Semitism could surge in the run up to the general elections this coming May. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, has also expressed concern that London could see a repeat of the 2011 riots which resulted in widespread looting and arson.
In a recent interview with the British Jewish newspaper Jewish News, Lammy warned of a “febrile atmosphere” in the run up to the general election, and said that he was “very worried concerns about immigration can tip into anti-Semitism and racism.
“I’ve been subjected to it in the past when I’ve stood up against anti-Semitism and I’m subjected to racist tweets on a regular basis”, he added. “My skin gets thicker as we head towards a general election but this stuff is simply not acceptable.”
In October, Lammy was recently one of a number of Parliamentarians who abstained on a House of Commons vote to recognise Palestinian statehood (Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also abstained). Just 12 Members of Parliament voted against the motion, none of whom were Labour members. His leader, Ed Miliband, voted in favour of the motion, as did Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman, and Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary.
Speaking to the Jewish News, Lammy said that he was “not comfortable with where the party arrived at” on the issue, adding “I don’t think unilateral actions in the British Parliament are the way forward. I think we have to be absolutely clear about the complexities of the problems in the Middle East.”
His comments come just days after anti-Semitic graffiti was daubed across cars and buildings, including a primary school, in Stoke Newington, North London home to 20,000 Jews. Meir Taub, who lives in the area told the Mail “There is a large Jewish community that lives here with Holocaust survivors and children of Holocaust survivors and to see Swastikas is not a pleasant thing for them. People were shocked, scared and fearful. A lot of damage was caused to a lot of vehicles and there was a lot of concern.”
In what was a wide-ranging interview, Lammy also spoke about the London riots of 2011, which lasted for six days in August. By the 15th August, 3,100 people had been arrested, of whom 1000 were charged with a total of 3,443 crimes including looting, arson, vandalism and assault. Five people were killed and at least 16 injured, whilst £200 million worth of damage was done to property.
Lammy, who turned down a place in Miliband’s shadow cabinet in order to focus on the wide range of issues that he feared would appear in his constituency thanks to “large cuts in the public services”, told the Jewish News that “issues at the base of those riots [were] people not having a stake in society and losing touch with family remain”. Asked whether he would be surprised to see a repeat of the riots, he replied “I’m afraid not.”