Minister says No.10 must improve vetting processes after adviser Andrew Sabisky quits

Written by John Johnston on 18 February 2020 in News
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Kwarteng said vetting processes should be "much more severe" following Sabisky scandal

Kwarteng told Sky's Kay Burley Sabisky's comments were "racist and reprehensible". Photo: Sky

No.10 must look again at how advisers are hired, following a furore over the hiring, and subsequent resignation, of an aide who had made controversial comments on eugenics, race and welfare claimants.

Kwasi Kwarteng said there should be "much more severe" vetting processes for staff, after Andrew Sabisky stood down over remarks the energy minister called "racist and reprehensible".

Sabisky, who described himself as an independent researcher and a "super-forecaster", was recruited after the prime minister's top aide Dominic Cummings put out a call for "misfits and weirdos" to apply for special adviser and civil service roles at Downing Street.

But the 27-year-old adviser announced his resignation yesterday amid a growing storm over his comments on eugenics, race and welfare claimants. Many of the comments that attracted criticism were made underneath posts on Dominic Cummings's blog.

But the energy minister called for an overhaul of this system as he warned "unorthodox" methods could let people with "reprehensible" views into the government.

Speaking to Sky's Kay Burley,  Kwarteng said Sabisky would have been sacked from the role but had "jumped before he was pushed".

"They were racist remarks and as soon as that came to light he left the government pretty quickly, and we have drawn a line underneath that," he said.

"I don't know how he was recruited, I don't know who he is. I read in the paper that he is 27 years old. He has clearly got lots of views and has written profusely on them. And now I am pleased to say he has left the government."

He added: "I don't know how this man appeared on the horizon, I don't know how he was recruited... what I do know is that his remarks were offensive and racist and as soon as they came to light he left the government pretty quickly.

"I think we should prevent racists from coming into No.10 or wherever he was working. I think we do need to look at these processes."

The interview came after an official spokesperson for the prime minister repeatedly refused to condemn Sabisky's writings, which included the claim that black people were intellectually inferior to white people. The spokesperson refused 32 times to outright disavow the comments at a briefing, simply saying the Prime Minister’s views are “well-publicised and well-documented”.

'Recruited in an unorthodox way'

Asked if there would be a shake-up within No.10 in the wake of the resignation, Kwarteng said: "I think the vetting will be much more severe.

"In any walk of life, I remember working in banks before politics, there are people who slip through the net. Who are perhaps recruited in an unorthodox way and sometimes have reprehensible views.

"This happens across our community, and across our economy. And I think the main thing is to try and ensure that it doesn't happen again and I think we will be looking at vetting processes more closely."

On Monday evening, Sabisky stepped down from his role, claiming he was the victim of a "giant character assasination".

He tweeted: "Hey all. The media hysteria about my old stuff online is mad but I wanted to help HMG [the government] not be a distraction.

"Accordingly I've decided to resign as a contractor. I hope Number 10 hires more people with good geopolitical forecasting track records and that media learn to stop selective quoting.

"I know this will disappoint a lot of people but I signed up to do real work, not be in the middle of a giant character assassination.

"If I can't do the work properly there's no point, and I have a lot of other things to do with my life."

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John Johnston
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John Johnston is a reporter for CSW's sister site PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.

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