'You're the newie-you take this one' - Amos to Lammy
Brtish Ministerial pas de
deux at Diaspora Dialogue
at Guyana High Commission.
By John Mair in London
October 31, 2002
She has been a British Government Minister for over four years; he a Minister for just over four months. They're the Guyanese beach-head in Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Government, Baro-ness Amos in the Foreign Office, David Lammy in the Ministry of Health. Both interrupted very busy schedules to grace the latest 'Diaspora Dialogue' at the Guyana High Commission in London last Tuesday October the 22nd.
Amos literally had stepped off a plane that very morning fresh from representing Britain at the Bali atrocity, Lammy was on the way to collect a major multi-cultural award. Both physically brought their Guyanese heritage with them-Valerie her mum and dad and David his mum and brother. It was a national event, a family event but one with great seriousness.
Both reacted strongly to the suggestion that they were full time politicians who had never had a 'proper job'. Valerie pointed out her chairing of the Equal Opportunities Commission before taking office. Lammy the 'struggle for factory work alongside my pupilage' for the English Bar. Even working in the Kentucky Fried Chicken back home to make ends meet when a privileged -but poor-student at the Kings School in Peterborough.
Both had developed advocacy skills early, Amos at the family Sunday dinner table 'They taught me what is right, just and fair', Lammy at school and in the Tottenham community. Both now saw being in government as a way to right injustices, as Lammy put it-"More black kids go into Feltham young offenders institution than into university every year". Amos' ministerial brief covered a 'part of the world which is going backwards rather than forwards', Africa, and her job was to try to reverse that momentum.
Both recognised their big break coming at age eleven and through education, Amos going to Grammar School in Kent and Lammy to that choral scholarship in Peterborough. Despite their differing backgrounds, one born Guyanese, the other second generation, there was much to bind them together. Both expressed a loving and yearning for their homeland. Both saw the dangers in the current situation with its seemingly uncontrolled crime wave;110 murders so far this year. Lammy blamed it fairly and squarely on 'the dangers of crack cocaine' whilst Amos pointed out that the deportees from the USA had played their part in the 'greater sophistication of criminality' in Guyana whose fate and that of the United States 'were now interconnected'.
Both acquitted themselves well in front of a packed house at the latest Diaspora Dialogue at the High Commission in Bayswater. Previous ones have featured Wilson Harris, Lord Ouseley and Air Commodore David Case and have proved surprisingly popular, all sell outs.
Both recognised that there was developing a 'Guyanese Mafia' in British politics, these two plus Trevor Phillips of the Greater London Authority and Lord Waheed Alli- as Amos put it' We are there for each other' whilst retaining their humility and sense of origin. In the words of the 'Newie' (as Baroness Amos called him) Lammy "I remember where I come from and the remarkable journey I have had". All in the audience were grateful to share their recollections and their journeys.
(The next Diaspora Dialogue is on December 10th at the Guyana High Commission when Ambassador David Dabydeen meets Professor Clem Seecharan with Profes-sor Harold Goulbourne in the chair. John Mair will again be the producer).