Boris Johnson's most senior black adviser quits as backlash grows over UK race report

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

Boris Johnson's most senior black adviser has quit - a day after government-backed review found Britain is no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.

Samuel Kasumu will leave 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.

However a No 10 spokesman said Samuel Kasumu had planned to leave the Government in May “for several months”.

The spokesman said: “Mr Kasumu has played an incredibly valuable role during his time at No 10.

“As he previously set out, he will be leaving government in May – this has been his plan for several months and has not changed.

  • PM praises Samuel Kasumu following resignation

“Any suggestion that this decision has been made this week or that this is linked to the CRED report is completely inaccurate.”

Mr Johnson thanked Mr Kasumu for his work on encouraging vaccine take-up among “more hesitant groups and communities”, when asked about the adviser’s resignation.

During a visit to Middlesbrough, Mr Johnson told reporters: “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.

  • Libby Wiener explains the latest developments following PM adviser's resignation

“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.”

The timing of Mr 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”.

Its chairman said it had found no evidence of “institutional racism”, and the report criticised the way the term has been applied, saying it should not be used as a “catch-all” phrase for any microaggression.

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

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

Politico said Mr 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.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

In the letter, which was obtained by the BBC, Mr 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.

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

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.

Former equality and human rights commissioner Lord Simon Woolley said he had received a “deluge of calls” following the publication of the race disparities report, with one woman telling him it could have been “straight out of the 1980s”.

“I had a whole range of feelings, actually – anger, despair, and I think above all sadness, great sadness,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“And it wasn’t just me. I had a deluge of calls, people calling up saying ‘Simon, is this for real? In 2021, are we still having to justify whether structural race inequality exists, rather than tackling it?’

“One woman said to me, in tears, this report could have been straight out of the 1980s.”

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.”

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “I speak in this debate as a white man, but I’ve been listening very carefully over the last couple of days to colleagues form different communities and it’s very clear that the report isn’t recognising their lived experiences.

“And I fear this report is actually a divisive report, it’s a disappointing report that actually takes us back.

“Four years ago, David Lammy produced a report about disproportionality across our criminal justice system, he was asked to do so by the then Conservative government.

“There was no dispute about the structural inequalities that existed in our society, the debate was about what we did to actually address them.

“And it seems to me this report takes us backwards, it takes us back to a debate as to whether structural racism even exists, so I’m not surprised in those circumstances that the prime minister’s most senior black adviser has resigned.”