The office of President of the United States, with its potent combination of symbolic and executive power, has no real equivalent in the United Kingdom, which is one reason why the question of whether there could be a British Barack Obama feels slightly beside the point. Another is that we don’t, at least constitutionally, directly elect our prime ministers.
Interestingly, however, the most powerful directly elected post in Britain – the mayoralty of London – could well be occupied by a black man in four years’ time (and no, I’m not talking about Dizzee Rascal). David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and a higher education minister, looks increasingly likely to run for the Labour candidacy in 2012.
A few months ago, Prospect first alerted the world to the possibility of a Lammy run in 2012, describing him as “Tottenham’s answer to Barack Obama.” While Lammy is, in truth, no Obama – on the one occasion I was in the same room as him, it conspicuously failed to light up – by 2012, with a Labour party presumably languishing in national opposition and in desperate need of a new young star, Lammy’s combination of executive experience and strong roots in a multicultural inner London constituency could make him a very attractive proposition. And if Obama’s star doesn’t wane over the course of his first term, Lammy’s friendship with the president – which he highlights at every available opportunity – could give him that bit of celebrity glitter every mayoral candidate seeks.