Boris Johnson's diversity adviser quits amid backlash over racial disparities report

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing on coronavirus (Covid-19) from Downing Street's

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing on coronavirus (Covid-19) from Downing Street's new White-House style media briefing room in Westminster, London - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson’s most senior black adviser has resigned as ministers face a backlash after a government-backed review concluded there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK.

Samuel Kasumu has quit his role as a special adviser to the prime minister on civil society but will stay in post until May to continue work on improving vaccine uptake in minority groups, Politico reported.

The timing of Kasumu’s departure comes after the landmark report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) faced heavy criticism over its findings, with claims that it is culturally deaf, out of step with public opinion, and “steeped in denial”.

Downing Street sources insisted his departure was “absolutely nothing to do with the report”.

Government minister Gillian Keegan appeared unaware of Kasumu’s departure, telling Times Radio: “I don’t even know who he is.”

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Politico said Kasumu notified the prime minister’s chief of staff, Dan Rosenfield, of his decision to quit his job – which paid up to £75,000 – last week.

He has reportedly been unhappy in government for some time, with a resignation letter drafted – but then retracted – in February.

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In the letter, which was obtained by the BBC, Kasumu accused the Conservative Party of pursuing “a politics steeped in division” and suggested Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch may have broken the ministerial code in her public spat with a journalist.

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The CRED document found that Britain is no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.

But its findings have been described as insulting and divisive, and the chairman of the review has been accused of putting a “positive spin on slavery and empire” when explaining its recommendation on teaching history in schools.

The commission said geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all affect life chances more than racism.

It also criticised the “confusing” way the term “institutional racism” has been applied, saying this should only be used when deep-seated, systemic racism is proved and not as a “catch-all” phrase for any microaggression.

The report proposes a Making Of Modern Britain teaching resource to “tell the multiple, nuanced stories of the contributions made by different groups that have made this country the one it is today”.

In commission chairman Tony Sewell’s foreword to the report, he said the recommendation is the body’s response to “negative calls for ‘decolonising’ the curriculum”.

He wrote that the resource should look at the influence of the UK during its Empire period and how “Britishness influenced the Commonwealth” and how local communities influenced “modern Britain”.

He added: “There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a remodelled African/Britain.”

Highlighting the passage on Twitter, shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said it was “one of the worst bits” of the report which was “putting a positive spin on slavery and empire”.

Halima Begum, chief executive of race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, said: “Comments about the slave trade being a Caribbean experience, as though it’s some kind of holiday… this is how deafening it is, cultural deafness, it’s completely out of kilter with where British society is, I believe.”

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