By Rajeev Syal…..
Boris Johnson’s adviser on race has resigned, it has emerged, the day after the government released a controversial report downplaying structural racism in the UK.
Samuel Kasumu, No 10’s special adviser for civil society and communities, resigned last week and informed colleagues of his decision on Wednesday, sources have confirmed. His resignation, first disclosed by London Playbook, will not come as a complete surprise after he first attempted to resign in February.
In a leaked letter to the prime minister, Kasumu raised concerns about the conduct of Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, suggesting she may have broken the ministerial code when she publicly criticised a black journalist on social media, and said tensions over race policies within No 10 had become “unbearable”.
“I believe the ministerial code was breached. However, more concerning than the act, was the lack of response internally,” he wrote.
“It was not OK or justifiable, but somehow nothing was said. I waited, and waited, for something from the senior leadership team to even point to an expected standard, but it did not materialise.”
Race report ‘more about politics than policy’
Kasumu also discussed the tension within Downing Street over race and said he considered resigning over fears the Conservatives were pursuing a “politics steeped in division”.
He wrote: “It is well documented that black and Asian people are significantly less likely to vote Conservative, despite often having values that are aligned. The gains made under David Cameron in 2015 have been eroded in subsequent elections.
After his first attempt to resign, Kasumu was persuaded to remain in place by Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister. He has spent the last month working on campaigns to ensure that black Britons take the Covid vaccine, and played a key role in this week’s vaccination campaign led by Lenny Henry. He will stay in his post until the end of May to continue his work on vaccine uptake.
The 258-page report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said the term “structural racism” was “too liberally used” and that factors such as socioeconomic background, culture and religion have a “more significant impact on life chances”.
Shortly after the report’s publication the government admitted that a “considerable number” of people giving evidence – particularly from ethnic minorities – had in fact told the commission that structural racism was a real problem.
Lord Woolley, who appointed Kasumu to No 10’s race disparity unit during Theresa May’s premiership, said Kasumu’s resignation was a reaction to the “grubby, divisive” findings within the race commission’s report.
“The only black special adviser in No 10 has felt that his only recourse to this grubby, divisive Sewell report is to resign.
“I appointed Samuel to the race disparity advisory group when we first launched. He is a decent man whose energy has been hellbent on serving his country and tackling systemic racism.
“This is going to be a real moment for the PM and his aides at No 10 Downing Street. Black people around the country are incandescent with rage that their lived experience of persistent race inequality is being denied and belittled,” he said.