Britain’s first black archbishop John Sentamu denied automatic life peerage by Downing Street
The former Archbishop of York has been snubbed by Downing Street after it failed to bestow him with an automatic life peerage.
Dr John Sentamu, 71, is Britain’s first black archbishop and was imprisoned for speaking out against former dictator Idi Amin while working as a high court judge in Uganda in the 1970s.
While Dr Sentamu’s predecessor Lord Hope and former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, were made life peers following their retirements, the same privileges were not extended to him.
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The appointment would have allowed the former archbishop, who retired on 7 June, to continue sitting in the House of Lords in a personal capacity.
Snub is ‘nothing short of scandalous’
“John Sentamu is a hero and a role model. The fact he has not been afforded a peerage is nothing short of scandalous,” Lord Woolley, founder of lobby group Operation Black Vote, told The Sunday Times.
“Given the deluge of peerages [prime minister Boris Johnson gave] to friends and family, of which not one was black, I sincerely hope this is an oversight that will be rapidly corrected.”
The former archbishop was told he would have to wait until the next round of life peerages (Photo: Getty)
A Government spokesperson told the newspaper Dr Sentamu had not been awarded a peerage because the House of Lords needed slimming down.
“The size of the House of Lords needs addressing,” they said. “But given retirements and other departures, some new members are needed to ensure the Lords has the appropriate expertise and it continues to fulfil its role in scrutinising and revising legislation.”
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Dr Sentamu was told he was being considered for a peerage on 26 June, but was informed on 31 July he would not be receiving automatic bestowal and would have to wait until until the next round for further consideration.
Just 12 of the 794 peers sitting in the Lords are of black origin, including Doreen Lawrence, Floella Benjamin and Paul Boateng, according to Operation Black Vote.
Church leadership is all-white
Former cricketer Ian Botham, Evening Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev and the Prime Minister’s brother and former Conservative MP Jo Johnson were among the life peers Mr Johnson announced in July. None of the 36 peers announced were of black origin.
Lord Carey, who served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002 and is a life peer, said Dr Sentamu was a “pioneer and should be given the same honour.”
Former Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell, who has taken over from Dr Sentamu, is being enthroned as the 98th Archbishop of York during a Covid-19-compliant service at York Minster on Sunday afternoon.
The former Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell will become the new Archbishop of York today (Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Dr Sentamu’s retirement means that all five of the Church of England’s top leadership positions are occupied by white people.
Bishop of Dover Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Church of England’s only black female bishop, called on bishops to “examine ourselves” and make reforms to be more racially-inclusive in June.
“It is not acceptable, I love the church of which I am a part of but I am not going to sit here and tell you it’s alright,” she said at the time.