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Basu condemns ‘horrific’ government rhetoric on migrants

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu (Yui Mok/PA)
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu (Yui Mok/PA)

Britain’s most senior police officer of colour has condemned the “horrific” rhetoric being used by senior politicians of Asian heritage in relation to migrants.

Former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said he found some of the commentary coming from the Home Office “inexplicable”, comparing it to Enoch Powell’s infamous “rivers of blood” speech.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Basu, an ex- head of counter terrorism policing, also disclosed that police had investigated a number of “disgusting” and credible threats against the Duchess of Sussex.

Stepping down after 30 years in the Met, Mr Basu – who said he was proud to be “woke” – said he believed his outspoken views had cost him further promotion in the police.

Asked about comments by Home Secretary Suella Braverman – who is of Indian heritage – saying that it was her “dream” to see asylum seekers removed to Rwanda, he drew a comparison to Mr Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech criticising mass immigration into the UK.

“I find some of the commentary coming out of the Home Office inexplicable,” said Mr Basu, whose father  was from India.

“It is unbelievable to hear a succession of very powerful politicians who look like this talking in language that my father would have remembered from  1968. It’s horrific.”

Enoch Powell
Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said he found some of the commentary coming from the Home Office “inexplicable” comparing it to Enoch Powell’s infamous “rivers of blood” speech (PA)

He added: “I was born in 1968. The ‘rivers of blood’ speech happened in the constituency next to where my parents lived and made their life hell. A mixed-race couple walking through the streets in the 1960s. Stoned.”

“I speak about race because I know something about race because I’m a 54-year-old mixed race man.”

Mr Powell’s 1968 address in Birmingham was widely blamed for heightening racial tensions at the time.

Mr Basu also disclosed that as head of counter terrorism, he had had to deal with a number of “disgusting and very real” threats emanating from the “far right” against the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“If you’d seen the stuff that was written and you were receiving it, the kind of rhetoric that’s online, if you don’t know what I know, you would feel under threat all of the time,” he said.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visits UK
Mr Basu said police investigated “disgusting” threats against the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Matt Dunham/PA)

Asked if there had been genuine threats to Meghan’s life replied: “Absolutely. We had teams investigating it. People have been prosecuted for those threats.”

Mr Basu, who was previously linked to the position of head of the National Crime Agency, suggested that readiness to speak out on issues of race may have cost him the job.

“I do know that No 10 has previously interfered in me being appointed to positions. And the reason for that, I have not been told,” he said.

“I would surmise – and people who know me surmise – that it is because I’ve been outspoken about issues that do not fit with the current political administration.”

He argued, however, that politicians were wrong to ignore such matters, saying diversity and inclusion were “two of the most important things for policing” and that there should be “zero tolerance” in the service for those who are prejudiced.

Mr Basu said he was proud to be “woke” – and that other officers should be as well.

“Are you alert to issues of racial and social justice? Yes, I am. And if that is the definition of woke, I’ll wear it as a bumper sticker every day of the week,” he said.

“And by the way, every serving police officer, let alone a chief constable, better believe that too. We serve all of the public without fear or favour, regardless of who they look like, not just the people we like.”

In response to his comments a Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary expects forces to take a zero tolerance approach to racism within their workplace.

“But the Home Secretary is also very clear about the need to manage our borders effectively and have an asylum system that works for those in genuine need, as are the British people.

“We are actively pushing for a cultural change in the police, including via a targeted review of police dismissals to ensure officers who are not fit to serve can be swiftly removed.”