Boris Johnson’s senior black adviser resigns amid Downing Street tensions
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior-most black adviser, Samuel Kasumu, has stepped down from his post as Special Adviser for Civil Society and Communities, it emerged on Thursday, a day after the release of a controversial government-appointed race review.
Kasumu’s resignation will come in effect from May 1 and Downing Street has dismissed as “completely inaccurate” reports that it is linked to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) report, which had concluded that Britain was not a structurally racist nation even though overt racism remained a reality in the country.
It has been claimed that Kasumu’s exit was on the cards for some time due to tensions within Downing Street and is not directly linked to the much-criticised report.
"Mr Kasumu has played an incredibly valuable role during his time at No 10," a Downing Street spokesperson said.
“As he previously set out, he will be leaving government in May – this has been his plan for several months and has not changed. Any suggestion that this decision has been made this week or that this is linked to the CRED report is completely inaccurate," the spokesperson said.
Kasumu had previously handed in his resignation in February but went on to retract it. At the time, he had said he wanted to continue work he had been doing fighting misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines with Britain’s black community, with "the view to leaving at the end of May".
However, according to ‘The Politico’, Kasumu confirmed his decision to leave Downing Street on Tuesday morning, just as the findings of the CRED report were released.
It comes as racial equality campaigners criticised the findings, and the Opposition Labour Party accused the government of downplaying institutional racism.
Labour''s shadow equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova called the report "divisive", adding it was "no wonder" the government was "losing the expertise from their team".
"To have your most senior advisor on ethnic minorities quit as you publish a so-called landmark report on race in the UK is telling of how far removed the Tories are from the everyday lived experiences of Black, Asian and ethnic minority people," she said.
Former equality and human rights commissioner Lord Simon Woolley, who knows Kasumu, said he had been "disheartened" whilst at No 10 Downing Street.
The House of Lords peer, who has also criticised the CRED findings, told the BBC there is a "crisis at No 10 when it comes to acknowledging and dealing with persistent race inequality".
The report has also attracted criticism from unions and charities – all of whom accuse the commission of downplaying the role of wider factors in racial inequalities.
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a member of the commission, said the report was not denying institutional racism existed, but said they had not discovered evidence of it in the areas they had looked.
Among its other findings, the report had concluded that Indian pupils tend to perform well in education in Britain and also go on to have high average incomes as a result, a model that needs further research to be replicated across other ethnicities by the Department for Education.
Among its recommendations, the independent commission calls for greater focus on Commonwealth influences on Britain, including a new dictionary that traces words of Indian-origin.
“We want to see how Britishness influenced the Commonwealth and local communities, and how the Commonwealth and local communities influenced what we now know as modern Britain. One great example would be a dictionary or lexicon of well known British words which are Indian in origin,” the review suggests.
The usage of the term BAME – Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic – frequently used to group all ethnic minorities together, is dubbed as “demeaning” because it categorises people in relation to what they are not, rather than what they are.
“The BAME acronym also disguises huge differences in outcomes between ethnic groups. This reductionist idea forces us to think that the principal cause of all disparities must be majority versus minority discrimination,” the review said.
Boris Johnson, who had commissioned the review last year in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of African-American George Floyd in the US, said it’s an “important piece of work” which will now define actions within government.
“The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was launched to conduct a detailed, data-led examination of inequality across the entire population, and to set out a positive agenda for change,” Johnson said in his response to the report on Wednesday.
“It is now right that the government considers their recommendations in detail, and assesses the implications for future government policy. The entirety of government remains fully committed to building a fairer Britain and taking the action needed to address disparities wherever they exist,” he said.