Boris Johnson appoints man who described evidence of institutional racism as 'flimsy' as head of new race commission

Kate Devlin
·2-min read
Amer Ghazzal/Cover Images
Amer Ghazzal/Cover Images

Boris Johnson has appointed a campaigner who once described much of the evidence of the existence of institutional racism as "flimsy" to head a new government commission on race.

The body will be led by Tony Sewell, the head of an education charity.

MPs had raised concerns that No 10 adviser Munira Mirza was involved in the creation of the commission, following comments she made suggesting structural racism was “more of perception than a reality”.

Others warned another commission was unnecessary and ministers were sitting on a series of recommendations they should implement.

Mr Sewell, an education consultant, previously worked with Mr Johnson in 2013 leading the then-London mayor's inquiry into the city's schools.

The prime minister said he had "supported many young people from diverse backgrounds" into careers.

"I know well how his work has improved access to education across London, " he added.

After his position was announced it emerged that in 2010, in an article in Prospect magazine, Mr Sewell wrote that "much of the supposed evidence of institutional racism is flimsy".

Asked about the comments the prime minister's official spokesman said Mr Johnson was "confident" Mr Sewell "shares his commitment to maximising opportunity for all.”

He added: “The prime minister's view is that he has asked the commission to examine inequality in the UK across the whole population and he is very pleased to have assembled a group of talented and diverse commissioners who each bring a wealth of experience across a range of important sectors.”

Shadow minister Marsha de Cordova said: "It's time for action on the structural racism that we already know exists. Much of the evidence that Dr Sewell will review has already been presented to the government.

"His first priority should be to understand why the many recommendations made from reviews and investigations in recent years are yet to be implemented by the government."

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