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Matt Hancock proclaims Boris Johnson’s cabinet, which includes no Black or openly LGBT+ people, the ‘most diverse in history’

Nick Duffy June 8, 2020
Matt Hancock, health secretary, leaves 10 Downing Street after the daily coronavirus briefing on May 26

Matt Hancock, health secretary, leaves 10 Downing Street after the daily coronavirus briefing on May 26 (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Matt Hancock has insisted that Boris Johnson’s cabinet, which includes no Black or out LGBT+ MPs, is actually one of the “most diverse” in British history.

The health secretary made the extraordinary claim on Sunday amid Black Lives Matter protests which have swept across the UK.

Challenged by Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday over the lack of Black voices in cabinet, he said: “The… well… there’s a whole series of people who are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds, the chancellor of the exchequer and home secretary to name just two.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and home secretary Priti Patel are both Asian, and there are no Black people in the cabinet.

Matt Hancock insists it’s ‘diversity of thought’ that is important.

Hancock continued: “The two cabinets I’ve sat in with Boris Johnson as prime minister are the two most diverse cabinets I’ve ever sat in and right at the top of government, including in the great offices of state, people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds… I think that Boris Johnson’s got a very good record on this, he brings people in and listens to a diversity of views.

“It’s diversity of thought that’s the really important thing when you’re taking those big decisions around the cabinet table.”

Matt Hancock defended the composition of the Cabinet
Matt Hancock defended the composition of the Cabinet (Matt Dunham – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In a subsequent interview with ITV News, Hancock insisted: “The cabinet is one of the most diverse in history… the most important thing is that we have that diversity throughout the government. And the key thing is taking action to ensure that people have equality of opportunity.”

When pressed again over the lack of Black cabinet ministers, he responded: “There were until a couple of months ago.”

Former Conservative Party chair James Cleverly, the only Black full-time member of Johnson’s cabinet, was demoted in a reshuffle in February – while energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng was removed from a list of ministers who sometimes attend cabinet.

As well as having no Black voices in cabinet, there are also no out LGBT+ cabinet ministers.

The last out LGBT+ person to serve in cabinet was Theresa May’s Scottish secretary David Mundell, who was sacked a year ago when Boris Johnson came to power.

People were not impressed with the health secretary

Hancock’s insistence that there is “diversity of thought” was skewered online.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy said: “Matt Hancock is either unaware or unwilling to admit there are no Black people in Boris Johnson’s cabinet.

“It’s offensive to say it’s OK because they’ve got ‘diversity of thought’. Especially at time of real pain for the Black community. Do better.”

Another Twitter user wrote: “Do you know how f**king offensive it is for Matt Hancock to be asked how many Black members of the cabinet there are and for him to name Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak because of the way ethnic minorities are all boxed into one category? Give me strength.”

Sophy Ridge tweeted: “I thought it was important not to lump everyone from a non-white background together as people from different ethnic minority backgrounds have very different experiences of prejudice.”

More: Boris Johnson, diversity, Matt Hancock, Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak

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