Just before the first lockdown hit, Labour shadow minister David Lammy released his second book Tribes, a look at the positive and negative effects of our need to belong.
It was more than just his second publication – the MP said writing it was therapy. Speaking on podcast White Wine Question Time, Lammy said it helped him understand more about himself.
“It's important to understand that I wrote this book in part for therapy,” he told host Kate Thornton.
“When you're writing a non-fiction book, it's a great way to understand your own mind and how you feel about what's going on around you.”
He continued: “And this was a world in which I was getting death threats, in which hate was rising.”
Listen: David Lammy says becoming a choirboy saved him from a life of crime
As well as the death threats, Lammy was also being accused of hating his beloved home country.
“For the first time in my life – in a really profound way–- people were saying things like, 'Why do you hate Britain so much?'” he recalled.
“They were questioning not just my Britishness but my Englishness, and so writing about this sort of new tribalism that's in our society was therapy. It was sort of soul food for me.”
The Tottenham-born politician, who has been MP of his home constituency since 2000, spent part of his childhood as a choirboy at boarding school in Peterborough. While he’s the descendant of Guyanese people who were formerly Africans, he says he’s very much English – which definitely came to the fore while studying at Harvard University.
“I've insisted that I'm English,” he told Thornton.
“When I lived in the States, I missed Ribena. I missed Walker's Crisps. I missed British humour – you know, growing up with things like Little & Large and Terry & June!”
Despite a huge following of just over 683,000 on Twitter, Lammy says he’s on the social media network purely for work and finds it very toxic.
Lammy, who received racial abuse after his Parliamentary speech in 2018 where he lambasted the government for the mistreatment of members of the Windrush generation, said his background means he sits very much in the centre of politics.
He told Thornton: “It's become a very dirty word to be in the centre – you're a ‘centrist’ – but my politics is definitely somewhere between Tottenham and Peterborough, which puts me definitely in the centre-left ground of the political spectrum.
“And I'm very, very comfortable there.”