David Lammy attacks ‘twisted lies’ of Empire that turned millions into slaves

Shadow foreign secretary links shame of slave trade to Russia’s assault on Ukraine

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 27 September 2022 17:49 BST
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David Lammy has attacked the “twisted lies” of Empire that turned millions into slaves, in one of the fiercest condemnations by a senior British politician.

The shadow foreign secretary linked the shame of the slave trade to Russia’s assault on Ukraine, in a Labour conference speech that tore into 40 years of failed Conservative foreign policy.

Mr Lammy said his Guyanese parents would not have believed “their skinny son in NHS prescription glasses who got stopped and searched on the streets of Tottenham” could reach the job he holds.

And he explained they would be “surprised not only because MPs at that time didn’t look like me, surprised not only because I had barely travelled beyond London’s Zone 3.

“They would have been surprised because our ancestors knew what it was like to have their freedom taken away,” he said.

“They heard the twisted lies of imperialism as they were stolen from their homes in shackles and turned into slaves.”

Mr Lammy told the Liverpool conference: “No act of imperialism is ever the same.

“But Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine this year was just the latest front in an age-old war between democracy and dictatorship. Freedom and subjugation. Empire and independence.”

The shadow foreign secretary also warned that ‘”every time the Conservatives come to office, they take our foreign policy backwards”.

“They were wrong in the 1980s to support apartheid in South Africa. They were wrong in the 1990s with their endless damaging quarrels about Europe,” Mr Lammy said.

“They were wrong in the 2010s when they created a hostile environment for the Windrush generation. And today they are wrong once again.

“Cutting aid as millions face starvation across the globe, they are wrong. Attacking the European Convention on Human Rights, they are wrong. Undermining the Good Friday Agreement, they are wrong.”

Mr Lammy also promised a “green dimension” to the policy he would pursue in the Foreign Office – in an echo of the “ethical dimension” pledged by Robin Cook, in the 1990s.

“Never again will we be dependent on fossil fuel dictators”, he vowed, adding: “We will push for climate action to become a fourth pillar of the United Nations” as recommended by a review.

“We will seek to work with allies and partners to create a new international law of ecocide to criminalise the wanton and widespread destruction of the environment,” Mr Lammy said.

He added: “Unlike Liz Truss, who could not say if France is a friend or a foe, we know that European nations are among our closest allies”.

Labour would “strengthen co-operation with the European Union with a new security pact to complement Nato’s role,” Mr Lammy added.

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