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Race Report Author: Critics Ignored "Uncomfortable" Kemi Badenoch Backing My Drugs Policy

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Lord Sewell, the author of 2021’s controversial race report, has said that equalities minister Kemi Badenoch accepted his recommendations on drugs policy despite being personally “uncomfortable” with them, after he “fought” for them to be included in his report.

Speaking to The House magazine, Sewell, who was ennobled last year, pointed to a recommendation in his report that called for the development of an evidence-based pilot to move low-level Class B drug possession offenses from criminal justice to the public health system.  

The government expressed a commitment to extending Project ADDER, a scheme designed to divert drug users from the criminal justice system, in its Inclusive Britain strategy, a response to Sewell’s recommendations, published in March. 

He told the magazine his commission “fought for” the Class B recommendation, saying “The Telegraph didn’t like it” and that Badenoch “wasn’t that comfortable with it,” but “realised she had to take an independent report and run with it.” 

Sewell told The House the recommendation was born of evidence the police were arresting more children for low-level cannabis offenses while trying to patrol areas with high levels of violent crime, meaning those from deprived areas were being unfairly targeted.

He said: "Kemi didn't like it. I'll be honest...I mean, personally, I think she would say she doesn't, she would prefer us not to go there. But we did. And the reason why we did was that [...] we went upstream. And we realised what was going wrong with stop and search."

Sewell told The House that his report had been unfairly maligned, saying “it almost felt like the report was like The Satanic Verses. People just didn’t read it”. 

Speaking further on the drugs recommendation, he said: “Why didn't the Guardian run with that headline? Why didn’t all the groups who are always campaigning about cannabis legalisation? Why weren't they all over this thing?”

The government has made the commitment despite current Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s reported opposition to cannabis decriminalisation. In October last year, Number 10 distanced itself from reports that Braverman was planning to reclassify marijuana as a class A drug. 

Sewell also said Boris Johnson struggled with responding to the report at the time, telling him: "The race thing's difficult for me." A spokesperson for Johnson said "This is a misunderstanding. There was a suggestion that as PM, Mr Johnson should present the report himself. He properly declined to do so as the report was independent of government." Anneliese Dodds, Labour's shadow women and equalities secretary, said: "It is clear that Boris Johnson was never fit for office. What is surprising is that Johnson himself seemed to understand this."

Sewell also took aim at one of the report’s critics, Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, who was recently conferred the Companion of Honour in the New Year’s Honours list. Sewell had told a select committee two months after the report’s publication, that Marmot had “rowed back a little bit on his criticisms of the report now and has come in alongside us.” 

Marmot denied this was the case to The House, prompting Sewell to describe his methods as similar to that of “19th century explorers going to Africa and getting skulls and measuring them against white people and saying ‘this is more intelligent’”.

Marmot responded that Sewell’s words were “offensive and wrong”, adding: “There is a serious debate to be had about how widespread structural racism is in Britain. Trotting out tropes about white racist scientists is not a meaningful contribution.”

Sewell also dismissed criticism that his commission had been “right wing”, telling The House that he’d asked the Labour front bencher David Lammy to join, only for Keir Starmer to prevent him from doing so. A Labour source told the magazine the claim was “nonsense” and that Lammy "nver intended" to join.

A Government spokesperson said: "The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was established to help gain a better understanding of the complex causes of inequalities in the UK. The chair and commissioners engaged with thousands of researchers, analysts, stakeholders and members of the public in compiling the ground-breaking report.

"The evidence-based recommendations of the report informed our Inclusive Britain action plan, which sets out how we will build a fairer and more inclusive society for all, with actions across education, health, employment, criminal justice and family support."

Correction: Professor Sir Michael Marmot was conferred the Companion of Honour in the New Year’s Honours list. An earlier version of this story said he was knighted.

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