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Experts named in government’s ‘flawed’ race report ‘shocked’ to see names in evidence contributor list

Exclusive: ‘I was never consulted, I don’t know what record they have of contacting me’

Ashley Cowburn,Bethany Dawson,Jon Stone
Thursday 01 April 2021 12:32 BST
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BLM placard placed on the plinth of an Edward Colston statue in Bristol
BLM placard placed on the plinth of an Edward Colston statue in Bristol (Getty Images)

Two experts named as “stakeholders” in a landmark report into race disparities in Britain have hit out at claims they provided evidence, with one protesting: “I was never consulted.”

It comes as the government faces a backlash over the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which concluded that the UK was no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged” against ethnic minorities.

On Thursday, the commission was accused by Baroness Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, of “giving the green light to racists” and Boris Johnson’s most senior black adviser quit after questioning government’s approach on race.

The appendix to the 258-page report – commissioned in response to the Black Lives Matter protests – expressed thanks to stakeholders including professional bodies, charities and academics for providing “evidence during the course of its work”.

SI Martin, an author who specialises in the field of black British history and literature, who is named in the report, told The Independent: “I was never consulted, I don’t know what record they have of contacting me.”

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“I just would not have agreed to have been consulted even if I had been asked, but I’ve not been asked. I have been invited to things in the past – not by this administration – I just don’t go, I just refuse. It’s just not something I do.”

Pressed on his reaction to seeing his name in the report, the historian said it was a “growing shock”, asking: “How many other people have been roped unknowingly into this? Rubber-stamping this nonsense.”

Describing the report as a “horrible, typical, right-wing fig leaf”, he went on: “I would ask them when did they consult? Who did they ask? Who are these stakeholders and participants? On which planet do they live that they can arrive at that conclusion?”

After being alerted to the author’s inclusion, The Independent understands the commission will remove his name from the list – acknowledging it had been included in error.

A second academic, Stephen Bourne, a historian of black Britain, also told The Independent he felt “manipulated” at his name appearing in the report as being consulted by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.

Mr Bourne, who described the report as “flawed” and insisted institutional racism does exist, claimed to have been contacted by No 10 adviser Samuel Kasumu. After having a conversation with him in June, he was later invited to a Downing Street roundtable of historians of black Britain in October 2020, he said.

“Nothing was explained to me,” he went on. “I wrote down some of their names of the people there [at the roundtable], and when I googled them and the penny dropped that they were this commission.”

Mr Bourne added he later contacted Downing Street and read the “riot act” to Mr Kasumu.

“How dare you do that, I said that is so unprofessional so rude to invite me to what I thought was going to be what we discussed, a round table discussion of historians of black Britain. And it turns out to be this commission which I’ve never heard of.”

It was confirmed on Thursday that top adviser Mr Kasumu himself would stand down after warning in an earlier resignation letter that the government was pursuing “a politics steeped in division”. Downing Street says his departure is unrelated to the commission’s report.

A spokesperson for the commission later said: “Stephen Bourne participated in a 10 Downing Street event for Black History Month, in which he made a valuable contribution about the curriculum which influenced the thinking of the commissioners on the subject. We thanked him as a courtesy.”

Meanwhile, the King’s Fund think tank raised concerns about the commission’s claims that two of its academics, Veena Raleigh and Shilpa Ross, were listed as contributors to its report.

A spokesperson for the fund said it was “not strictly true” that the pair had produced research for the commission. They said that the researchers had presented some existing publicly available material and that beyond that neither “Veena or Shilpa had any involvement”.

And Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford who, after seeing his name on the list, told The Daily Telegraph: “Totally news to me. I never spoke to them. I did support this office and had a call with them, but that is not the report – it is different.”

Publishing the long-awaited report on Wednesday its authors said the term institutional racism was “too liberally used” and that factors such as socio-economic background, culture and religion have a “more significant impact on life chances”.

However, the authors said that “outright racism still exists”, the UK was not a “post-racial society”, and stressed: “We take the reality of racism seriously and we do not deny that it is a real force in the UK.”

But criticism continued to pour in on Thursday. Baroness Lawrence said she believed the review had pushed back the cause of anti-racism by 20 years, adding: “You imagine what’s going to happen come tomorrow. What’s going to happen on our streets with our young people? You are giving racists the green light.”

Speaking on Thursday, Boris Johnson said the government would respond fully to the commission’s report “in due course”, adding that there were “serious issues that our society faces to do with racism”.

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