DWP boss Mel Stride won't say whether Frank Hester's donations will be returned - as Tories accept another £5m

6 June 2024, 08:36 | Updated: 6 June 2024, 08:54

Mel Stride told LBC 'the remarks were unacceptable' but didn't say whether the Tories would return the cash
Mel Stride told LBC 'the remarks were unacceptable' but didn't say whether the Tories would return the cash. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Asher McShane

A minister refused to be drawn on whether the Tories would return a £5m donation from the company of Frank Hester when asked on LBC this morning.

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Mr Hester is embroiled in a row over comments about Diane Abbott where it is alleged he said she made him “want to hate all black women” and she “should be shot.”

It emerged today that the Conservatives accepted a £5m donation from Mr Hester in January, prior to the row erupting.

He previously donated £10m to the Tories last year.

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Speaking to Nick Ferrari this morning, Work and Pensions secretary Mel Stride was asked whether the Tories would return the money.

Mr Stride said: “These aren't questions for me, but the remarks were unacceptable, I know [Hester] has shown deep remorse."

Asked about the latest £5m donation, Mr Stride said: “This is recent news to me, Nick. We said at the time racist remarks are utterly unacceptable.”

Diane Abbott said news that the Conservatives have accepted another £5 million from businessman Frank Hester was "an insult" to her "and all black women".

Rishi Sunak eventually condemned the alleged comments as “wrong” and “racist” but refused to return the money, saying Mr Hester’s “remorse should be accepted”.

Mr Hester admitted making “rude" comments about Ms Abbott and apologised, but said his remarks "had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin".

When the row first erupted, the PM’s spokesman said Mr Hester had "rightly apologised for the offence caused and where remorse is shown it should be accepted".

Mr Hester apologised when reports of his comments emerged in The Guardian. A TPP spokesperson said: "Frank Hester accepts that he was rude about Diane Abbott in a private meeting several years ago but his criticism had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin.

"The Guardian is right when it quotes Frank saying he abhors racism, not least because he experienced it as the child of Irish immigrants in the 1970’s. He rang Diane Abbott twice today to try to apologise directly for the hurt he has caused her, and is deeply sorry for his remarks. He wishes to make it clear that he regards racism as a poison which has no place in public life."

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