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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Gurbux Singh: High-profile race campaigner
Gurbux Singh
Gurbux Singh: Career marked by controversy

Gurbux Singh has enjoyed a high-profile, if often controversial, career in the public sector. Though closely identified with New Labour, he has criticised the government over its asylum and immigration policies.
Gurbux Singh was born in the Punjab in 1950. His family moved to Wolverhampton when he was a child. To this day he remains a loyal supporter of Wolverhampton Wanderers and he's a Molineux season ticket holder.

His other great passion is cricket and the Indian cricket team - thus, ironically, failing Norman Tebbit's infamous "cricket test" for the integration of immigrants.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw headhunted Singh for the CRE
After graduating in political science at Sussex University, Mr Singh worked as a housing specialist for the former Community Relations Commission, which became the present-day Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).

During the 1980s, he worked in local government and became chief executive of Haringey Council, the first Asian ever to be appointed to such a high-level post in London.

During the inquiry into death of Victoria Climbie, his managerial role at the top of the authority was publicly scrutinised.

He rejected any day-to-day involvement in the social services team responsible for the girl's case. The conclusions of the public inquiry are yet to be published.

Gurbux Singh, who is a fluent speaker of Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu, became chief executive of the CRE two years ago. He was the first Asian to hold the post and succeeded the first black Briton in the job, Sir (now Lord) Herman Ouseley.

Campaigning

Mr Singh's tenure has seen a series of high-profile attention-grabbing campaigns.

A 'black' Chris Evans
The CRE turned Chris Evans black
In one, celebrities were changed with the aide of computers into different ethnic groups: Boxer Lennox Lewis became white; the DJ Chris Evans was turned black; London's mayor Ken Livingstone became Asian.

Gurbux Singh saw the CRE's role as being one of partnership with New Labour. Indeed, he was head-hunted for the 120,000 top job by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

Despite this, he was critical of the Government's policy on asylum seekers and also of the proposed rural dispersal centres.

"If we want a cohesive and well-integrated society," he asked, "is this really the best way to prepare new arrivals and the host community for an integrated Britain?"

He once said that Britain was years away from voting in a black or Asian Prime Minister.

During last summer's race riots in the northern cities and towns of Oldham, Burnley, Bradford and Leeds, he was shocked by the degree of alienation felt by the ethnic communities.

He believed that new housing and education policies were urgently needed to encourage integration.

Mr Singh has supported moves by Home Secretary David Blunkett to introduce English classes for new immigrants.

He argued that ethnic minorities should "open out, realise they are living in Britain and embrace the wider community". Learning English was essential just to get by in the UK, he said.

But other race activists have criticised him, saying that he has been reluctant to oppose government policies.

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