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Downing Street defends choice of chairman of new racial disparity commission

Downing Street has defended the appointment of Tony Sewell to lead the new racial disparity commission, despite his belief that the absence of black fathers is root the cause of knife and gang crime. 

Mr Sewell has also previously claimed that evidence of the existence of institutional racism was ‘flimsy’.

He was confirmed by the Government as chairman of the new Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities on Thursday.

The international education consultant has previously worked with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2013 when he led the then mayor’s education inquiry into the capital’s schools, which resulted in the creation of the London Schools Excellence Fund.

Writing in Prospect magazine in 2010, Mr Sewell said: ‘Much of the supposed evidence of institutional racism is flimsy.’

In an interview with the Times newspaper last year, the former teacher suggested that the root cause of knife crime and gang culture among black youths was absent fathers, citing figures showing that about 50 per cent of black children grow up without a father.

Tony Sewell is the chairman of the new Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, it was confirmed today

‘People often say I’m ‘brave’ to say that. It’s so patronising,’ he told the paper.

According to the Office of National Statistics in 2007, 48 per cent of black Caribbean families have one parent, as do 36 per cent of black African households.

Defending the decision to appoint Mr Sewell, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘In terms of Dr Sewell CBE, he has supported many young people from diverse backgrounds into stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.

‘The PM knows very well his work and how it has improved access to education across London.

‘The PM is confident that he shares his commitment to maximising opportunity for all.’

Mr Johnson announced the establishment of the commission after a series of anti-racism protests on British streets triggered by the death in the US of George Floyd while in police custody.

The 10-person group, comprised of representatives from the fields of science, education, broadcasting, economics, medicine, policing and community organising, will look to deliver a report on race disparity within the health, education, criminal justice and employment sectors by the end of this year. 

Mr Sewell has previously claimed that evidence of the existence of institutional racism was 'flimsy'

Mr Sewell has previously claimed that evidence of the existence of institutional racism was ‘flimsy’

Mr Johnson announced the establishment of the commission after a series of anti-racism protests on British streets

Mr Johnson announced the establishment of the commission after a series of anti-racism protests on British streets

The early stages of setting up the commission drew controversy after Mr Johnson gave Munira Mirza, head of the Number 10 policy unit, a major role in its creation.

Ms Mirza had previously questioned the existence of institutional racism and hit out at a ‘culture of grievance’ among anti-racism campaigners.

Dr Tony Sewell: The Brixton boy awarded the CBE for services to education 

Dr Tony Sewell CBE is the head of the  charity Generating Genius and has been appointed as the chairman of the new racial disparity commission. 

His charity works with BAME children to prepare them for careers in science and technology. 

He was born in Brixton in 1959 and has previously said ‘scouts and the Church were important’ to him growing up. 

His family attended a white majority Anglican church, which Mr Sewell said made him realise he wanted to go to university. 

Mr Sewell later moved to Essex and Sussex to go to University, before returning to London to teach. 

However, he became disillusioned and moved to Jamaica, before returning to the UK after two years.

He then worked as a teacher and education consultant on a freelance basis, as well as setting up his charity.    

The international education consultant previously worked with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2013 when he led the then mayor’s education inquiry into the capital’s schools, which resulted in the creation of the London Schools Excellence Fund.

Writing in Prospect magazine in 2010, Mr Sewell said: ‘Much of the supposed evidence of institutional racism is flimsy.’

In an interview with the Times newspaper last year, the former teacher suggested that the root cause of knife crime and gang culture among black youths was absent fathers, citing figures showing that about 50 per cent of black children grow up without a father.

Mr Sewell, currently head of education charity Generating Genius, said: ‘ I am delighted to be chairing this new Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. I have spent my entire career in education striving to help all students achieve their full potential. 

‘I know however that inequality exists, and I am committed to working with my fellow commissioners to understand why. 

‘Together we will set out recommendations for action across Government, public bodies and the private sector, and will seek to inform a national conversation about race, led by the evidence.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘Today I am establishing an independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. This cross-government Commission will examine inequality in the UK, across the whole population.

‘I am thrilled we have assembled a group of ten talented and diverse commissioners, who each bring a wealth of experience from across a range of important sectors.

‘This new Commission will be led by Dr Tony Sewell CBE. Tony has supported many young people from diverse backgrounds into STEM careers. I know well how his work has improved access to education across London, and I am confident that he shares my commitment to maximising opportunity for all.

‘The Commission will be inclusive, undertaking research and inviting submissions where necessary. It will set a positive agenda for change.’

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch said: ‘This Commission demonstrates this government’s mission to level up opportunity for everyone whatever their background. 

‘Our expert Chair and Commissioners will make evidence-based recommendations to change lives for the better. Their work will be crucial in informing and improving the national conversation on race.’ 

The other commissioners include space scientist and broadcaster Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, chairman of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales Keith Fraser, ex-BBC journalist Dr Samir Shah, professor of surgery at University College London Lord Ajay Kakkar, economist Dr Dambisa Moyo, academies trust chief executive Martyn Oliver, co-founder of UKGovChat Naureen Khalid, Muslims for Britain co-founder Aftab Chughtai, and commentator Mercy Muroki.

Two representatives from the Windrush Working Group – director of Voice4Change Kunle Olulode and Blondel Cluff, chief executive of the West India committee – will attend meetings where relevant, No. 10 confirmed.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk