Shadow justice secretary David Lammy has called out Boris Johnson for his recent tweets on Winston Churchill, querying why the prime minister has never tweeted so prolifically about coronavirus or the Windrush review.
In confirming that he would not support the dismantling of the Churchill statue, Lammy described the prime minister’s acute interest in the subject as a ‘deflection’ from the real issues.
In a series of eight tweets on Friday, Johnson said to take statues down would be to ‘lie about our history’.
He tweeted: ‘The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country – and the whole of Europe – from a fascist and racist tyranny.’
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the Tottenham Labour MP said: ‘Boris Johnson sent out eight tweets, I think it was, on Friday on Winston Churchill and statues.
‘He’s never tweeted eight times in a day on coronavirus, he’s never tweeted eight times in a day on the Windrush review or what he’s going to do about it, or on the review that David Cameron asked me to do on disproportionality in the criminal justice system and what he’s going to do about it.
‘This feels to me like a bit of a deflection. Let’s get to the action, let’s have some substance, let’s do something about these historic injustices that still exist in our country.’
He demanded ‘action’ and ‘substance’ to address the ‘historic injustices’ which still exist to this day, rather than huge outrage dedicated to one selfish area of interest.
The shadow justice secretary believes that for true equality to be achieved, the systemic issues which precipitate the current imbalance must be addressed.
He said he wants the government to rectify the statistics which show the extent of the enduring problem – with just 1% of police officers black and a similar percentage in the judiciary.
Yet by contrast 51% of young offenders are black and minority ethnic (BAME), with Lammy saying such polarities represent ‘the serious issues’ which should be the government’s focus, rather than the staunch defence of statues.
The disproportionate impact of coronavirus on the BAME community – highlighted by a number of reports – provides further evidence of ongoing injustice.
He accused the government of having ‘buried’ recommendations from a report by Public Health England looking at the disproportionate toll Covid-19 has had on these backgrounds.
He said: ‘It’s horrifying that at the moment across this country it’s hard to be black or Asian and not know someone, or someone who knows someone, who has died.
‘I’ve lost an uncle. I’ve lost a classmate who died at 45 due to this terrible virus.
‘The point is it’s a scandal if one week Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock say ‘Black Lives Matter’ and then we find out today that they buried part of the review that had the recommendations in it to do something about it.’
He added: ‘Get on it with it because people are dying every day and you said ‘Black Lives Matter’. It’s no wonder why people are upset.’
His comments also came on the third anniversary of the Grenfell fire in which 72 people lost their lives.