David Lammy MP is a new name on my list of good media operators. He seems to strike the right balance of being no-nonsense, plain-speaking and colloquial without losing party discipline. He is also very gutsy about not answering the questions he doesn’t want to answer.
David Lammy appeared on the Andrew Marr Show (again)
Here he is on this weekend’s Andrew Marr Show, where he is something of a regular.
Why Lammy comes across well
Here is why I think Lammy is a good media performer.
- He is a high energy communicator. We look for warmth, authority and animation and he has all these qualities.
- He always addresses the question – not the same as always answering it, but he doesn’t do what so many do, which is just make statements. He says something to the question.
- He looks to me as if his answers are prepared. Responses are always high value and appear thought-through with the evidence to hand. Of course, he is a trained barrister, so perhaps what you would expect but it is noticeable.
- He has the numbers at his fingertips. Again, like any good barrister, he lines up the evidence.
- He uses personal anecdotes. He talks about his university, often mentions football and always, always mentions his constituency.
- He manages to push back against aggressive or repeat questioning, without getting too aggressive himself.
Lammy spends a lot of time in broadcast studios
Another thing that is clear to me is that Lammy makes himself available to the media – a lot. He even has his own show on LBC. That means he is very familiar with the interview process, studios, etc.
My advice for Lammy
Just to be clear, Lammy hasn’t asked for my advice and probably doesn’t need it but …
- I do worry that he defaults to always having a strong point of view and often sounding irritated. As if the answer to every problem was blindingly obvious, rather than complicated and nuanced. This may undermine his authority somewhat, especially over the long-run. It’s difficult to trust people who are always upset about something. It’s difficult to have respect for those who oversimplify or are too obviously tribal.
- There is such a thing as too much media exposure. You can become seen as a ‘rent a quote’ by both journalists and audiences. Having established himself so well, and built so much experience in studios, maybe it’s time to target more thoughtful programmes and media interactions.
The Bigger Picture
Public perceptions of Lammy will not just be shaped by mainstream media. He is very active on Twitter, which means it is easy to know what he thinks about almost everything. On Twitter, he mixes national politics with the personal, in a way that gives colour and shows humanity but avoids being too tediously prosaic. He has also written a book, Tribes: How our Need to Belong Can Make or Break Society, published in March 2020. In this, he explains his complicated heritage and stellar career path as well as providing a thought-provoking contribution to two of the great problems of the age: loneliness and extremism, and how these are tied together by social media.
In fact, I can’t help wondering if Lammy’s book wasn’t inspired by Obama’s Dreams of my Father as it mixes the personal and the big picture in a similar way. Perhaps suggesting that Lammy has eyes on the top job eventually!