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  1. ITV Report

Labour MP David Lammy 'snubbed offer' to make film in Africa with Comic Relief

Comic Relief has suggested Labour MP David Lammy snubbed an offer to collaborate with the charity on a film in Africa.

The organisation told the politician the "offer is still open" after he criticised Stacey Dooley on Wednesday over her work on a film ahead of Red Nose Day.

Mr Lammy accused the Strictly Come Dancing star of perpetuating "tired and unhelpful stereotypes" when she travelled to Africa for an upcoming documentary.

The Tottenham MP claimed the world did not need "any more white saviours" after Ms Dooley, 31, was pictured holding an African child.

Ms Dooley had shared pictures from her trip to Uganda on social media.

But the pictures became a matter of fierce debate following Mr Lammy's comments, with Dooley asking whether his issue was with her being white.

Responding on Thursday, a spokesperson for Comic Relief made no apologies, thanking Dooley for helping people "working with or supported by Comic Relief projects tell their own stories in their own words".

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It said: "We are really grateful that Stacey Dooley, an award-winning and internationally acclaimed documentary maker, agreed to go to Uganda to discover more about projects the British people have funded there and make no apologies for this.

"She has filmed and reported on challenging issues all over the world, helping to put a much-needed spotlight on issues that affect people’s lives daily.

"In her film, people working with or supported by Comic Relief projects tell their own stories in their own words."

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The statement added: "We have previously asked David Lammy if he would like to work with us to make a film in Africa and he has not responded. The offer is still open."

Mr Lammy, who has been the MP for Tottenham since 2010, said on Twitter that the investigative reporter was reinforcing unhelpful stereotypes about Africa.

He said: "The world does not need any more white saviours. As I've said before, this just perpetuates tired and unhelpful stereotypes.

"Let’s instead promote voices from across the continent of Africa and have serious debate."

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Lammy said "The truth is it's not really about Stacey Dooley.

"It's about Comic Relief, who have a huge platform on the BBC. No other charity has that.

"They have a public duty to educate, to think hard about racial equality and I'm afraid they've failed."

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Mr Lammy said Comic Relief should do more to incorporate African celebrities and businessmen living on the continent in their shows, adding that people across the UK felt uncomfortable with the current formula for inducing donations.

"Can't they not film from Africa live? Can we not have African filmmakers, presenters and producers as well as perhaps some British celebrities to get across the issue," he asked.

"That's the issue in 2019. This is a formula now that is 20 years old - it hasn't moved on. That's the challenge for Comic Relief."

On Twitter, Mr Lammy said his issue was not "personal" with Dooley and he does not question her "good motives".

Instead, he said he had a problem with "British celebrities" being flown out to Africa by Comic Relief to make films that send "a distorted image" of the continent and perpetuate "an old idea from the colonial era".

Ms Dooley replied and invited Mr Lammy to travel to Africa himself.

She said: "David, is the issue with me being white? (Genuine question) … because if that’s the case, you could always go over there and try raise awareness? Comic relief have raised over 1 billion pounds since they started. I saw projects that were saving lives with the money. Kids lives."

Mr Lammy, who is of Guyanese descent, replied saying "many" black Britons are "deeply uncomfortable" with Comic Relief's "poverty porn".

David Lammy has criticised Stacey Dooley for her work in Africa for Comic Relief Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Casualty actress Amanda Mealing defended Ms Dooley in the midst of the row.

Mealing, who has just returned from a trip to health centres in Ghana for WaterAid's Water Effect Appeal, said she thought the criticism was "quite unfair".

"You can't have a go at us in the UK and the West because of the postcode lottery of being born here in different circumstances and not there," she said.

Mealing added: "I think if you have a position where people may take notice of what you say ... then you kind of have a duty of care to others to bring awareness.

"The saviour complex of going there and saying ... 'Look what I've done', that's a very different thing."

This is not the first time Comic Relief has been accused of perpetuating the white saviour trope.

In March last year, the charity said celebrities would take a backseat on on-location appeals following complaints about "poverty tourism".

Ed Sheeran was previously criticised for reinforcing white saviour stereotypes during a visit to Liberia.

Red Nose Day takes place on March 15.