David returned to England and stood as a Labour candidate for the newly created Greater London Assembly, securing a position as the GLA member with a portfolio for Culture and Arts. Following the sad death of Tottenham’s longstanding MP Bernie Grant, David was elected as Labour MP for Tottenham at the age of 27 in June 2000.
David was a trustee of the international development charity ActionAid from 2000 - 2006, becoming an Honorary Ambassador at the end of 2006. He previously served on the Church of England's Archbishop's Council, has an honorary doctorate from the University of East London, and is an Associate Fellow in the Centre for Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick, and has also been awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of East London. David sits on the International Advisory Board of the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) and is a member of the Royal Society of the Arts. He is a member of the Society of Labour Lawyers, the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, the Christian Socialist Movement, the Fabian Society, Progress and of the Amicus Branch of Unite.
He lives in Tottenham and is married with two young sons.
He is the former Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills responsible for ensuring that we sustain and develop world-class Higher Education in the UK, including: HE teaching quality; Research Assessment Exercise/Research Excellence Framework in HE; Climate change campaign in HE; Higher Level Skills; Voluntary giving; and Student support policy.
In his former Intellectual Property role, he was also responsible for developing and implementing an intellectual property system that promotes creativity and innovation in the UK, including: responsibility for the Intellectual Property Office; and policy on copyright and patent issues.
International Development and Social Justice
David was politically active throughout university, and spent his holidays volunteering for the Free Representation Unit, representing people in tribunals or in cases brought before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. He spent time on a placement in Jamaica, working for Amnesty International and volunteered in Thailand for Prisoners Abroad.
While he was a trustee of the International Development Charity, ActionAid, David approved strategies and policies to ensure that the organisation was managed effectively. He has also acted as an ambassador for ActionAid with trips to countries where the charity operates including Haiti and Sierra Leone. He is currently an Honorary Ambassador working to ensure that ActionAid receives the exposure and support it deserves
Prior to becoming a Government Minister, David was Vice Chair of the All-party Group on Rwanda and the Prevention of Genocide. He was also Vice Chair of the British-Caribbean All-party Group and a member of the All-party Group on Third World Debt.
David’s first governmental role was as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Education, Estelle Morris, just one year after his election. In that first year as a Member of Parliament, David visited every primary and secondary school in Tottenham, speaking to teachers, parents and pupils about the various challenges they face.
David frequently raises issues of race and education into the national arena. In 2004, he spoke of the need to encourage black children to attend University. “Many talented youngsters in the black community have written off university - or more often, written off themselves - by the time they take their GCSEs. Universities should be targeting children in inner-city areas as early as primary school.”
”A university education is a privilege, but we should be proud that in Britain it is also a right, no matter what your income or class or ethnic background. We need to ensure that our children do not suffer from a poverty of ambition but share the drive and ability to access our top universities”.
Having grown up in an inner city, David is especially concerned with the many issues particular to this environment. He has strongly campaigned to address the scourge of knife and gun crime across the country, including speaking at the launch of the Don’t Trigger campaign at City Hall, London, in May 2005. David is a firm believer in the ability of education to change lives, and takes every possible opportunity to encourage young people, especially those under-represented at many top universities, to achieve their academic potential. David has also called for greater support for supplementary schools and other community organisations, and continues to work alongside those in his own constituency.
Arts, Libraries & Culture
During his time as Minister for Culture, David had responsibility in Government for cultural policy, including oversight of the performing arts, museums and galleries, the public library service, the built heritage, architecture and the Royal Palaces. He also had a special role, overseeing the cultural sector’s commemoration of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 2007 and secured its legacy, notably through funding for the new International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.
David compelled the museum sector to take a more proactive approach to management and workforce diversity, and oversaw a continued growth in national and regional museum audiences, in terms of both numbers and diversity. He also pushed organisations in the heritage sector to refocus on reaching out to engage people in their historic environment, boosting visits and interest, and to look afresh at their collections and the histories of their sites. The work on 2007’s abolition act bicentenary was an excellent example of this, linking historic houses and national treasures in wider national narrative of economic, political and social change.
David also significantly decreased the timescale for listing decisions, taking the bold decision to list the Byker Wall Estate in Newcastle and the Casbah Club in Liverpool. He was successful in his attempts to secure funding for the Antarctic Heritage Trust, ensuring the successful restoration of the huts used by the British expeditionary teams led by Scott and Shackleton during their exploration of Antarctica nearly a century ago.
In his two years as Culture Minister, David showed himself to be a strong champion for the role of public libraries in the heart of local communities, and raising the profile of libraries across local and national government. This was done against the backdrop of rising usage, with renewed focus on books, as well as the valuable role of libraries as public internet hubs.
He also had an important role, overseeing Liverpool's role as European Capital of Culture in 2008, and the Cultural Olympiad running up to 2012.
As Minister for Constitutional Affairs, David led the programme of reforming the legal service sector, following a report from Sir David Clementi, to ensure that when lawyers don't deliver quality services that they can be called to account, and to enable people to receive legal advice more easily and from more customer friendly suppliers. David also acted to ensure that the family and not for profit advice sector funding was protected, whilst ensuring that tough measures were introduced to prevent the escalation of the criminal legal aid budget.
One of David's lasting contributions will be his tackling of the subject of diversity in the legal profession, where he spoke openly about the inequality still faced by black and ethnic minority British children in trying to enter the City law firms. The subject was taken up by the legal journals and the City firms are now working openly to try to address the problem.
David tackled the difficult issues facing human rights in an era of global terrorism, where he spoke frequently about the importance of seeking a balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of wider society. David also ensured that human rights found a place in the forthcoming Commission for Equality and Human Rights.
Appointed Under-Secretary of State for Health in 2002, David had ambitious plans. He successfully instituted a target mandating that 90% of all Accident & Emergency patients should be seen, treated and discharged within 4 hours. David established the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, a body formed to investigate ways to make the NHS more responsive to the needs of citizens. He also introduced pilot areas to speed up diagnosis and treatment for individuals most at risk for contracting Diabetes, by launching the Diabetes NSF which has raised the quality of care for sufferers of the disease across Britain. David went on to increase funding for the Independent Complaints Support and Advocacy program, which provides patients with a statutory right to support when bringing forth problems about NHS experience.