Former Number 10 adviser warns Boris Johnson against stoking culture wars

The front door of 10 Downing Street in Westminster

The front door of 10 Downing Street in Westminster - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Boris Johnson’s government risks another tragedy like the hate-fuelled killings of Jo Cox or Stephen Lawrence by stoking a “culture war”, a former race adviser has said.

Samuel Kasumu, in his first interview since quitting as the prime minister’s most senior black adviser, said some Conservatives believe the path to victory includes exploiting division.

“There are some people in the government who feel like the right way to win is to pick a fight on the culture war and to exploit division,” he told the Guardian in an interview.

“I worry about that. It seems like people have very short memories, and they’ve already forgotten Jo Cox.”

Kasumu said the man who killed the Labour MP during the Brexit referendum campaign had been whipped into a “frenzy” by narratives propagated in some newspapers.

He added: “If I was going to go to William Hill today and place a bet on what the most likely option is, I’d probably say a Jo Cox, a Stephen Lawrence, a Windrush scandal is where we’re headed if you don’t find a way to overcome this cultural moment. I feel like the government must be the ones to try to help drive that change.”

Kasumu quit as a special adviser to the prime minister on civil society in April after a government-backed review said Britain is no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.

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In his resignation letter, he 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 Twitter attack on a journalist.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The entirety of the UK government is focused on defeating this pandemic and building back fairer for everyone. That is our priority.

“The minister for women and equalities clearly set out in her Fight for Fairness speech the government’s plans for an evidence-based equality agenda in the UK.

“This includes racial equality, which is why the prime minister set up the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and, following their detailed report, the government will shortly respond to their recommendations.”

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