Comic Relief must 'refresh its image', says MP David Lammy

The bi-yearly fundraiser suffered a multimillion-pound fall in donations on Friday

David Lammy MP
David Lammy MP

The Labour MP David Lammy has urged Comic Relief to "refresh its image and think harder about the effects its output has on our perceptions of Africa" after Red Nose Day suffered a multimillion-pound fall in donations.

Friday's fundraiser generated £63.5m by the end of the night, compared with end-of-night totals of £71m in 2017 and £78m in 2015.

Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, said in a statement to Third Sector that a combination of factors, "including years of austerity, declining TV viewing figures, broader trends in the charity sector and format fatigue" were to blame for the decline.

"I hope my comments surrounding some of the tired, unhelpful tropes, which I have now been highlighting for several years, will inspire the charity to refresh its image and think harder about the effects its output has on our perceptions of Africa and the costly knock-on effect this has on the continent," he said.

"I have seen first-hand the very good work Comic Relief donations fund in the UK and abroad, and I hope that a revitalised and refreshed Comic Relief will reverse this trend in the coming years."

Lammy provoked controversy last month when he said Strictly Come Dancing winner Stacey Dooley had perpetrated "tired and unhelpful stereotypes" about Africa when she shared photos on social media of her trip to Uganda for Comic Relief.

"The world does not need any more white saviours," he tweeted.

Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, claimed yesterday that Lammy's comments had damaged this year's appeal.

"Pathetic manufactured indignation from David Lammy has caused £8m less money to be raised for charity," Philp tweeted.

"The cost of his absurd egotistical posturing is real. This is money that could have been used to save lives. He should fulsomely apologise to stop a repeat next year."

Jimmy Wales, who founded Wikipedia, also criticised Lammy for speaking out.

Wales tweeted on Friday: "I notice David Lammy wisely keeping quiet while the UK celebrates Comic Relief Red Nose Day raising millions for good causes and raising awareness of our fortunate place in the world and what we can do to help."

But Lammy broke his silence when contacted by Third Sector today.

Comic Relief is held every two years and the final amount raised has fallen consistently since 2011's record £108.4m.

A Comic Relief spokeswoman said this year's total had risen to £64.7m today.

Asked about Lammy's comments, the spokeswoman said the giving landscape was changing.

"The total is not down because of any one person’s view," she said. "The reasons for people donating are complex, including the change and decline in TV viewing, and many other external issues.

"We had the broadest range of appeal films we have shown and raised awareness of so many important issues we aim to help.

"We are thrilled at the donations and fundraising efforts from members of the public. They will allow us to fund so many fantastic projects here in the UK and abroad."

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