Boris Johnson’s most senior black adviser to step down

Boris Johnson’s most senior black adviser within Downing Street is stepping down, intensifying pressure on the government as it faces a backlash over its commissioned report on inequality within the UK.

Samuel Kasumu, who is Number 10’s special adviser for civil society and communities, is expected to continue in his post until the end of May. 

According to the Politico website, Kasumu, who has led the government’s efforts to reach minority communities throughout the vaccine rollout and was involved in reforming the Windrush compensation scheme, informed Dan Rosenfield, chief of staff in Downing Street of his intentions last week.

In February, Kasumu submitted then later retracted a letter of resignation. In that letter, he said the Conservative party was pursing “a politics steeped in division”, adding: “As someone that has spent his whole adult life serving others, that tension has been at times unbearable.”

Confirmation that he will now leave Downing Street follows criticism of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Cred) report after its publication on Wednesday. 

The report that offered recommendations on how best to tackle ethnic disparities within healthcare, employment, the criminal justice system and education, was accused of downplaying the existence of racism by campaigners, unions and Labour MPs.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s 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.”

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Writing in the foreword to the Cred report, commission chair Tony Sewell argued that “very few” racial disparities within the UK were linked to racism, adding: “Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined.”

Other factors including, geography, socio-economic background and culture had more of an influence on life chances, according to Sewell. 

His comments in the report on slavery were met with particular criticism. Sewell wrote: “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.”

The Runnymede Trust think-tank argued that the comments on slavery were “nothing short of shocking and racist”, while Labour’s Cordova said the report had put a “positive spin” on slavery.

Other remarks within the report, such as those on institutional racism were also criticised. Rehana Azam, the GMB union’s national secretary for public services, called it a “deeply cynical report”, adding that the findings were “gaslighting” black and other minority ethnic people.

Simon Woolley, a founding director of Operation Black Vote and a former equality and human rights commissioner, said the report left him with a feeling of “great sadness”.

“In 2021, are we still having to justify whether structural race inequality exists, rather than tackling it?” he said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Gillian Keegan, minister for apprenticeships and skills, on Thursday defended the report’s findings. “It doesn’t glorify the slave trade,” she told Sky News. “It is an independent report . . . the most important thing is to read the report, and not reports of the report.”

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Downing Street had not responded to a request for comment when this article was published.



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