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There are many situations in modern Britain where peoples’ views are so misplaced that it certainly raises an eyebrow or two. The latest such issue to catch my attention is the furore surrounding this year’s Comic Relief, which is of course backed by the BBC. Stacey Dooley, a well-known presenter who has always conducted herself in a friendly and open minded way, became the subject of an attack from Tottenham MP David Lammy.
He accused her of exhibiting a ‘white saviour’ complex, because she went to Uganda to promote Comic Relief, where she heard the stories of poor civilians, and tried to promote their plight whilst making a documentary. Lammy on Twitter exclaimed ‘The world does not need any more white saviours,’ and criticised ‘Comic Relief’s poverty porn.’ He seems to feel that white celebrities who try to raise money for Africans are wrong to do so, because it portrays Africans as poor and helpless.
But surely this portrayal is completely accurate in the poverty-stricken countries these celebrities visit; otherwise the people there wouldn’t need any help. Stacey Dooley herself hit back at the criticism, tweeting that ‘David, is the issue with me being white? (Genuine question) …because if that’s the case, you could always go over there and try raise awareness?’ Dooley’s response was, by pure coincidence, very well timed, because the next day it emerged that Lammy himself had refused to go to Africa to help Comic Relief.
So here we have the rather silly situation of an MP criticising white celebrities for trying to raise awareness about the poverty of black communities in Africa, whilst that same MP refuses to go and help himself. David Lammy has previously called for reparations because of the slave trade, colonialism and the ‘Windrush generation’. Unlike comedian Lenny Henry, who co-founded Comic Relief in 1985 and has helped the charity to raise over a £1billion, Lammy seems intent on only negativity and criticising their efforts.
This whole issue once again raises the question of foreign aid and virtue signalling. It is true that many celebrities do these trips for publicity, but it is also true that many people, including celebrities, are driven to do such work from a genuine feeling of charity, however naïve that may be. The view that ‘charity starts at home’ is absolutely correct and is a view which I have always had sympathy with. And as Africa struggles with conflict, poverty and severe corruption, it is likely that much of the financial aid given to the continent is wasted.
I do genuinely share some sympathy with Stacey Dooley though. Brought up to believe in helping the third world, she is then lambasted for doing exactly that – some of the replies to her on social media are outrageous and highly offensive. What’s clear though is that as the Labour party fractures, identity politics is becoming more apparent amongst its MPs, as they struggle for relevancy in an increasingly hostile political arena.