Entertainment & Arts

Comic Relief 2019: MP Lammy speaks out after donations drop

David Lammy and Stacey Dooley Image copyright Getty Images/PA
Image caption David Lammy MP criticised Comic Relief for sending Stacey Dooley to Africa

MP David Lammy has tweeted a response to a call for him to apologise after an £8m drop in donations to Comic Relief.

The Labour MP previously criticised the charity appeal for sending documentary maker Stacey Dooley to film in Africa, saying "the world does not need any more white saviours".

Donations on the night fell to £63m, compared to £71.8 million in 2017.

Conservative MP Chris Philp blamed Mr Lammy for the drop but the Tottenham MP jokingly brushed aside the criticism.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, also took a swipe at Mr Lammy.

But others on social media responding to Mr Lammy's tweet clearly thought that linking the MP's comments to the fall in donations was oversimplifying the issue.

In February, Lammy criticised Comic Relief for sending the Strictly Come Dancing winner Stacey Dooley to make an appeal film in Africa, saying it created a "distorted image of Africa which perpetuates an old idea from the colonial era".

But Comic Relief said at the time: "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."

In a statement given to the BBC on Monday, Mr Lammy said: "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.

"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."

Image caption A host of stars presented this year's Comic Relief

In his statement, Mr Lammy pointed out that donations to Comic Relief have declined recently, which he put down to a combination of factors including "years of austerity, declining TV viewing figures, broader trends in the charity sector and format fatigue".

The bi-annual event also saw a fall in ratings this year.

On Friday night, 5.6 million people tuned in to watch the star-studded telethon, which featured sketches based on BBC One's Bodyguard and a mini-sequel to romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The show lost 600,000 viewers compared with the previous event in 2017, when an average of 6.2 million switched on.

The total of £63m raised on the night is not the final total achieved for this year's campaign, as not all pledges have been received yet.

Comic Relief has raised more than £1bn since the charity was founded 30 years ago, with more than £78m raised by the end of the 2015 live show.

But on the night donations dropped in 2017 to £71.8m. That fall was blamed on austerity by some commentators.

In a statement, Comic Relief said: "The giving landscape is changing. The total is not down because of any one person's view, the reasons for people donating are complex - including the change and decline in TV viewing, and many other external issues.

"We had a broad range of appeal films 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, it will allow us to help fund so many fantastic projects here in the UK and abroad."

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