POLITICS
07/08/2012 13:01 BST

Tottenham Riots One Year On: David Lammy Reflects On What's Changed And What Hasn't

David Lammy wasn't a widely known politician this time a year ago. The Labour MP had been in the Brown government as a junior minister, but his profile had slipped back into relative obscurity since the 2010 election. Then, overnight, he went from a political bit-part to the first politician to respond to the Tottenham riots of the night of the 7th of August 2011 - something he had to do as the London district's MP.

"The post office, fitness shop, newsagents... council buildings, smashed to pieces by mindless people last night. Many of whom are not from Tottenham and have come from far beyond this community intent on causing violence," he told reporters in the aftermath of the destruction, which was broadcast live on national TV and was the trigger for a wider wave of rioting that spread across London and to other English cities.

On the first anniversary of the protest at the killing of Tottenham resident Mark Duggan which spiraled out of control, Lammy's task doesn't seem much easier - walking a tightrope between criticism of the police and coalition's response to the riots, and trying to sound positive about his patch.

"There's always a balance to be struck here," he told me. "What happened last August is a small minority took control of the streets. Locally the community has come together, and particularly the young people who wanted to send a message about their home,"

In some ways Lammy's message hasn't changed much over the course of the year. "I always stress that the trouble building up took place over a good eight-hour period, and many of those who were arrested came into the area," he says - something he seems to worry is forgotten and which is contributing to damaging Tottenham residents' reputations.

"26,000 people stayed at home that night," he insists. "They don't want their home to be defined by that night."

Lammy is understandably guarded about predicting another riot, but says it's a "possibility" because the underlying resentment and social problems persist. Although unemployment has fallen nationally it hasn't done so in Tottenham, in fact it's still rising. There are parts of northeast London which have almost Spanish levels of unemployment, particularly among the young. And for Lammy the riots have compounded the problem.

"I remember growing up here in the wake of the Broadwater Farm riots, and there's a stigma for people who come from places where there's been a riot. It's tough for anyone to get a job at the moment, but it's even harder for people who say they're from Tottenham on their application form," he says.

Like most people Lammy acknowledges that any repeat of last August's violence would need a trigger, similar to the killing of Mark Duggan. "There's always a spark, usuaully an act of percieved injustice, normally on the part of the police," he says, but believes Met has learned lessons, particularly in northeast London.

"There has been a reduction of 50 percent in stop and search in Haringay. That has taken some of the pressure out of the system. But the Mark Duggan case continues and a year on we're no closer to understanding what happened when he was shot and killed. That's a source of huge pain to his family, but we need an inquest with a jury."