Diane Abbott stood up 46 times to talk about race row at PMQs but was denied - as she reports Tory donor to police

13 March 2024, 20:59 | Updated: 14 March 2024, 00:02

Diane Abbott reports Tory donor Frank Hester to police over comments saying MP 'should be shot'
Diane Abbott reports Tory donor Frank Hester to police over comments saying MP 'should be shot'. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Diane Abbott stood up at PMQs 46 times to talk about the ongoing race row surrounding alleged comments made about her by a Tory donor, but was denied the chance to speak.

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There has been growing anger at the House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, over his decision to stop her from speaking in Parliament.

Speaking to LBC's Andrew Marr, the leader of the SNP in Westminster, Stephen Flynn, called on Sir Lindsay to go.

It comes after it emerged that Ms Abbott had reported Conservative donor Frank Hester to the police over alleged comments saying she 'should be shot'.

The former shadow home secretary filed the complaint with the Met Police's special parliamentary liaison and investigations team, first reported by The Independent.

The complaint regards 2019 comments made Mr Hester - the Conservative Party's biggest donor who has given the party £10 million - where he allegedly said that Ms Abbott makes you "want to hate all black women", The Guardian reported.

Mr Hester also allegedly said Ms Abbott "should be shot".

Diane Abbott is seen in Westminster, January 8
Diane Abbott is seen in Westminster, January 8. Picture: Alamy

Natasha Clark explains why Diane Abbott was rejected at PMQs

Read More: Tory donor's comments about Diane Abbott were ‘racist and wrong’, Rishi Sunak says

Read More: Tories' biggest donor accused of saying Diane Abbott 'makes you want to hate all black women' and 'needs to be shot'

Throughout PMQs Ms Abbott appeared to stand up to signify her intention to question Prime Minister Rishi Sunak but was never called upon by the Speaker.

Ms Abbott hit out at Mr Hoyle following PMQs. "I don't know whose interests the Speaker thinks he is serving. But it is not the interests of the Commons or democracy," she said in a post on X.

She also confirmed reports that Sir Keir Starmer approached her after PMQs and told her: "Let me know if there’s anything I can do."

She twice asked that he restore the whip and readmit her to the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Ms Abbott had the whip removed in April last year after suggesting that Jewish people, Irish people, and Travellers had never been "subject to racism". She later apologised “unreservedly".

Commenting on the Speaker not calling on Ms Abbott, the SNP's Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: "I cannot fathom why the Speaker of the House of Commons did not allow Diane Abbott to use her own voice on a matter which is intrinsically linked to her as a person.

"It was an absurd decision. Every single Member of Parliament in the Chamber knew that Diane Abbott... was bobbing, that she was ready to ask a question, she had her notes with her.

"We were all just waiting for it to happen and then The Speaker decided that she's not going to have a voice on this issue. And if I may, I think he's lost control of the Chamber.

"Obviously, the disagreement between myself and Lindsay is well known to everyone. But this was this was a stage further today… I think it's beyond even me to offer some sort of commentary as to the decision making that The Speaker gave today because it's so outrageously bad."

Meanwhile, Labour MP Stella Creasy said it was "very wrong" that the first female Black MP Abbott wasn't chosen to speak while her "safety is debated by others".

The Conservatives are under pressure to return money given by donor Frank Hester who's apologised for saying former Labour MP Diane Abbot makes him want to 'hate all black women'
The Conservatives are under pressure to return money given by donor Frank Hester who's apologised for saying former Labour MP Diane Abbot makes him want to 'hate all black women'. Picture: TPP/YouTube

Throughout the half-hour session, Ms Abbott appeared to continually try and catch the Speaker's eye to ask a question after Labour leader Keir Starmer and RIshi Sunak exchanged blows.

Commentators took to X to criticise the Speaker for not selecting her to speak following alleged revelations over Mr Hester's comments.

While Ms Abbot was not on the list to ask a question at PMQs, MPs are still often chosen to speak if they make clear to the Speaker that they have a question for the prime minister.

Ms Abbott is both the first Black woman elected into parliament and the longest-serving Black MP.

Although still a member of the Labour Party, she sits in the House of Commons as an Independent since having her whip suspended in April 2023.

Read More: Kemi Badenoch labels Tory donor's comments ‘racist’ as Marcus Fysh calls on Sunak to ‘stand up for Diane’

Read More: Rishi Sunak insists Tory donor's 'remorse should be accepted' amid racism row as he resists calls to give back £10m

Addressing the Commons at PMQs this afternoon, Mr Sunak insisted Mr Hester's "remorse should be accepted" amid the racism row.

He also resisted calls to give back £10 million that Mr Hester had given the party, but conceded that "the alleged comments were wrong" and "were racist".

He added: "There is no place for racism in Britain, and the government that I lead is living proof of that."

Sir Keir hit out at Mr Sunak, accusing him of being “scared of his party”.

Referencing a recent speech the PM gave on extremism, Sir Keir said he had "posed as some kind of unifier".

But Mr Hester's alleged comments have shown him to be "tongue-tied" and "hoping he can deflect for long enough that we'll all go away".

The Cross Question panel discusses 'institutional racism' in the Tory Party

Mr Sunak hit back saying that he would not "take lectures from somebody who chose to represent an antisemitic terrorist group" and also worked for Jeremy Corbyn who "let antisemitism run rife in this Labour Party".

"He's describing a Labour Party that no longer exists. I'm describing a man who is bankrolling their upcoming general election," Sir Keir said.

It was also revealed earlier that Mr Hester allowed Mr Sunak the use of a helicopter in November, which was valued at £15,000.

When asked if he would be reimbursing him amid the ongoing racism row, Mr Sunak said "No, Mr Speaker."