No 10 race adviser Samuel Kasumu resigns

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No 10 race adviser Samuel Kasumu resigns

Rajeev SyalThu, 1 April 2021, 6:53 pm

Boris Johnson’s adviser on race has resigned, it has emerged, amid a growing row over a report on racial disparities which concluded that the UK does not have a systemic problem with racism.

Samuel Kasumu, No 10’s special adviser for civil society and communities, will leave his role next month, sources said.

Related: No 10’s race report widely condemned as ‘divisive’

Downing Street said Kasumu’s departure was not linked to the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which faced criticism over its findings, although its timing is uncomfortable for the government.

However, one senior figure who has worked with Kasumu insisted that the disclosure of the resignation of Johnson’s most senior black adviser on Thursday was no coincidence.

Lord Woolley, who appointed Kasumu to No 10’s race disparity unit during Theresa May’s time as prime minister, said Kasumu’s resignation was connected 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,” he said.

“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.”

A No 10 spokesperson said Kasumu had played an “incredibly valuable role” during his time as a special adviser. “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.”

Friends of Kasumu said he resigned last week and was asked by senior figures to remain in post before his resignation was eventually disclosed on Thursday by Politico’s London Playbook.

His decision to step down will not come as a complete surprise after he first attempted to resign in February.

In a leaked letter to the prime minister then, 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”.

Related: Racial disparities in the UK: the people who compiled the report

“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.”

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.

In a clip that will be seen as an attempt to reach out to Kasumu, Johnson thanked the former adviser for his work on encouraging vaccine take-up when asked about the adviser’s resignation.

During a visit to Middlesbrough, the prime minister said: “I worked very closely with Samuel in the last year or so and he’s done some great stuff. I thank him very much, particularly on helping to encourage vaccine take-up amongst more hesitant groups and communities. And, actually, we’re seeing some real success there.

“It is true that different groups have been coming forward at different paces, everybody is increasing their take-ups, so I thank him very much for that.”

Asked to respond to news of Kasumu’s resignation earlier on Thursday, the skills minister, Gillian Keegan, told Good Morning Britain: “Personally, I don’t know him. It’s a personal matter. It’s not up to me to comment.”

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 had 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.

Marsha de Cordova, the shadow women and equalities secretary, said: “To have your most senior adviser 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.

“Their divisive report appears to glorify slavery and suggests that institutional racism does not exist despite the evidence to the contrary. It is no wonder they are losing the expertise from their team.”

A friend of Kasumu’s played down the timing of his resignation and claimed it was not linked to the report.

The friend said: “Working in No 10 is a tough job especially during lockdown and with a very young family. He felt it was time for someone else to take over. The report is an important piece of work and he is sure someone else will take it forward.”

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