DAVID Lammy, what the hell happened to you?

For long enough, you were one of the few Labour MPs worth reading and hearing – even for a “hardened” supporter of Scottish independence.

A Harvard-educated barrister, you were bold and outspoken in your assault on Brexiters – “likening cheerleaders of the cause in the European Research Group to Nazis”, according to the Financial Times.

You attacked the “white saviour” mentality of Comic Relief and said Suella Braverman “spat” on victims of Windrush all over again when she decided against a migrant’s commissioner earlier this year.

You wanted those responsible for the Grenfell Tower fire prosecuted for “a crime of epic proportions”. You told the Guardian that Roots by Alex Haley changed your life as a teenager: “It was the first time I properly understood what it meant to be the descendant of slaves.”

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The last book that made you cry in 2020 was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – a story of two young boys in Kabul, trying to win a kite-fighting tournament. One betrays his best friend and the act haunts him for life. It’s real, powerful stuff.

In 2021, you revealed your dad “struggled with alcoholism and homelessness for periods of his life” – prompting you to campaign on both issues throughout two decades as Labour MP for Tottenham.

In short, you are not a thoughtless man, you do not lack empathy and you have fought for persecuted minorities – at home and abroad. Your 76% vote share in 2019 reflects your popularity as a campaigner and straight-talker.

The National: Labour’s David Lammy made the call yesterday

And with one sentence, that credibility has gone – completely and permanently.

“It’s wrong to bomb a refugee camp but clearly if there is a military objective it can be legally justifiable.”

You’ve just walked beyond the pale.

Just as Sir Keir Starmer came unstuck on radio, telling LBC Israel had the right to block water, fuel and food reaching Gaza, you – the shadow foreign secretary – told Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday that Israel’s decision to bomb the Jabalia refugee camp was “wrong when it comes to the ethics”, but “if there is a military objective, can be legally justifiable”.

What? WHAT?

What planet are you living on?

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says an immediate ceasefire is “a matter of life and death for millions of people”.

Who are Labour to disagree? And you of all people?

You once described Nigel Farage as “the poster boy of xenophobia, racism and a little England mentality … the xenophobia was deep. I understood it for what it was”. And you “suffered tremendous personal abuse and death threats” for your anti-Brexit stance.

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You know what xenophobia, racism and small-mindedness are all about. Yet, your comments on Gaza have basically fanned the flames. For what?

Starmer is laser-focused on one electoral mission – jettisoning the memory of Jeremy Corbyn, a politician characterised as tolerating antisemitism. That mission – correctly – led Labour to pledge solidarity to Israel after the horrendous war crimes perpetrated by Hamas against civilians on October 7.

But it’s also meant looking pointedly the other way ever since, as civilians in Gaza are bombarded, killed, injured and maimed. One child dies every 15 minutes.

The National:

Israelis may feel such anger, rage and grief that they want to eradicate Hamas at all costs – but it’s the job of the international community to place a different framework on that emotional response.

Especially countries with their own lived experience of militant/terrorist action in Northern Ireland and decades of armed response which culminated eventually in the difficult journey towards a ceasefire and more lasting (though still fragile) peace.

The vast majority of British people cannot thole the nightly parade of terrified, wide-eyed children; demented, hysterical parents carrying limp, tiny, bodies and shell-shocked stoic, interviewees like the pregnant woman preparing to give birth in a bombed-out Gaza hospital.

Are we living in different worlds? Don’t Labour’s high command watch these reports? Do they doubt that the frenzied panic portrayed is for real? Do they fail to notice that Jewish groups are also campaigning for a ceasefire – so many that the hashtag #notinourname started trending this week?

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Indeed, the BBC’s Jo Coburn was tackled yesterday after observing that “the Jewish community, maybe as a whole, feels very intimidated by the crowd chanting ‘ceasefire’ during a sit-in at Liverpool St station”.

As Olaf Stando pointed out on Twitter, Coburn “failed to mention the sit-in was co-organised by Jewish groups”. Olaf is a Jewish Yesser who hails from Poland and lost relatives to the Holocaust.

The views of these pro-ceasefire Jewish communities should be heeded and respected too – not least because they chime with most of Britain.

A recent YouGov poll found only 8% of respondents objected to the notion of a ceasefire. As former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger put it: “Modern political debate assumes you have to sign up to one camp or the other. But I suspect most people feeling horror-struck by what they’re currently seeing in Gaza were equally disgusted by the Hamas atrocities on October 7.”


Starmer claims Hamas would be “emboldened” by a ceasefire, but shamefully, it seems Netanyahu and the IDF may have been emboldened by Labour, Tory and international support. Yesterday they embarked on a second bombing of the Jabalia refugee camp.

Hours earlier, Lammy tweeted: “I am appalled by the civilian deaths at the Jabalia camp. I continue to call on Israel to explain how this conforms to international law and how it qualifies as proportionate.”

Israel wasn’t listening.

Instead, they carpet bombed the refugee camp all over again, exposing the pious words of Labour leaders as utterly naive and the danger that a slapped wrists response can seem to justify escalation.

The National:

As it is, Labour folk with a conscience are voting with their feet.

Labour lost its majority on Oxford City Council this week, after a ninth councillor resigned over the stance on Gaza and 300 Labour councillors signed a letter urging Starmer to call for a ceasefire.

Meanwhile as George Kerevan reported earlier this week, Muslim opinion is swinging heavily against Labour and Lammy is a prime focus for those feelings of impotent rage. It must feel very uncomfortable.

The Muslim Association tweeted yesterday: ‘There can be no justification, legal or otherwise, for the murder of civilians. You are complicit in war crimes @DavidLammy.”

READ MORE: David Lammy: Labour figure slammed for refugee camp bombing comments

And later: “In light of @UKLabour’s failure to call for a ceasefire, and @DavidLammy thinking it ‘legally justifiable’ to bomb a refugee camp, we thought we’d help the Labour Party launch their election campaign early. Vote Labour, Get War Crimes.”

Demanding a ceasefire is the only credible next step, ushering in the infinitely difficult business of mediation. Of course, a ceasefire will let both sides regroup. And of course, Hamas has stated its intention to attack Israel over and over again.

The stakes are as high as with any other deadlocked ethnic and territorial dispute in the world. Yet, most of them have been resolved.

It takes courage to walk the line.

David, you could start by acknowledging the simple, powerful statement made yesterday by Humza Yousaf: “I am sorry to those innocent men, women and children in Jabalia Refugee Camp that the world could not protect you.

“This blatant disregard for human life must be condemned unequivocally. Do not let any more children die. We need an immediate ceasefire, nothing less.”