No 10 adviser on minority ethnic people nearly quit over Tory ‘politics of division’

Samuel Kasumu reportedly retracted his resignation letter
Samuel Kasumu reportedly retracted his resignation letter

Samuel Kasumu raised concerns in letter about conduct of equalities minister Kemi Badenoch

The prime minister’s senior adviser on minority ethnic people considered resigning over fears the Conservative party was pursuing a “politics steeped in division”.

Samuel Kasumu reportedly retracted his resignation letter, in which he said tensions in government were at times unbearable, after talks with the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi.

In the letter to Boris Johnson, seen by the BBC, Kasumu also 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.

But Kasumu reportedly retracted the letter on Thursday night after talks with Zahawi. He was said to have remained in government to continue with efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy among black, Asian and minority ethnic Britons, having written of his pride at his work on battling “misinformation and mistrust” surrounding the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

According to the BBC, Kasumu’s letter had said that progress made by the Conservatives under David Cameron in 2015 in appealing to minority ethnic voters had been reversed. “I fear for what may become of the party in the future by choosing to pursue a politics steeped in division,” he wrote, adding: “The damage that is often caused by our actions is not much considered.”

The behaviour of Badenoch, who used Twitter to publish emails from a HuffPost journalist, calling them “creepy and bizarre”, had been concerning, Kasumu wrote. The reporter had written to Badenoch asking for clarification as to why the minister had not appeared in a video promoting vaccine uptake.

No 10 initially defended Badenoch, but the BBC reported that the Cabinet Office was now understood to be looking into whether she had broken the ministerial code.

Kasumu, in his letter, said he was concerned by the lack of response, writing: “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.”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on individual staff members. This government is committed to inclusion and bringing communities together and is the most ethnically diverse in this country’s history.

“Last year we established a commission on race and ethnic disparities to examine and tackle inequality and discrimination wherever it is found. It is due to report shortly.”

source: Damien Gayle