Dr John Sentamu has fought for racial justice in the UK throughout his career, acting as an advisor to the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry and chairing the Damilola Taylor ReviewNICK/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Rt Revd. And Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu, former Archbishop of York (2005-20) and Selwyn College alumnus, has been conferred a lifelong crossbench peerage by the Queen in the 2020 political honours list.

Dr Sentamu read theology at Selwyn College in the 1970s and was awarded a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in 1984. He meanwhile trained for his ordination at Ridley Hall, where he was ordained in 1979, from which point he served as an assistant chaplain at Selwyn. 

After being appointed Bishop of Stepney in 1996, Dr Sentamu played a key role as an advisor to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. He also chaired the Damilola Taylor Review in 2002, and became Bishop of Birmingham in the same year, before he was eventually appointed Archbishop of York in June 2005 – becoming the UK’s first black Archbishop.

Retiring this June, Dr Sentamu was officially succeeded by Stephen Cottrell, the former Bishop of Chelmsford, who became the 98th Archbishop of York in July.

The government had previously come under fire when Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to give Dr Sentamu an automatic peerage upon his retirement in his July political honours list - despite this honour being extended to all previously retired Archbishops of York.

A government spokesperson at the time said the decision to leave Dr Sentamu off the list was taken to control the number of members sitting in the House of Lords.


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Boris Johnson has also faced criticism for his decision to include Peter Cruddas, a banker and philanthropist, in the latest political honours list, despite the House of Lords Appointments Commission withdrawing support for Cruddas’ nomination after conducting a vetting process of all nominees. 

Cruddas resigned from his position as Conservative co-treasurer in 2012 when he was purported by The Sunday Times to have accepted up to £250,000 from reporters in exchange for granting them access to the Prime Minister and Chancellor at the time.

The latest honours list includes seven nominations from the Prime Minister on behalf of the Conservative Party, five from the Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, and four nominations for crossbench peerages: of whom Dr Sentamu is one.

A statement from Selwyn’s website on Dr Sentamu’s peerage reads: “We congratulate him warmly on this further recognition of his extraordinary life.”

Dr Sentamu will take his crossbench seat in the House of Lords as a non-party member in the New Year.

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