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

13 March 2024, 13:07 | Updated: 13 March 2024, 13:14

Keir Starmer blasted Rishi Sunak amid the £10m Tory donor ‘racism’ storm
Keir Starmer blasted Rishi Sunak amid the £10m Tory donor ‘racism’ storm. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Rishi Sunak has insisted a Tory donor's 'remorse should be accepted' amid a racism row as he resists calls to give back £10 million.

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Frank Hester is claimed to have said that Diane Abbott made him "want to hate all black women" and that she "should be shot".

Speaking during Wednesday's PMQs, Mr Sunak acknowledged that "the alleged comments were wrong, they were racist".

He has been facing calls to hand back the £10 million given to the party by the major Tory backer who donated the money.

But he resisted the calls in the Commons, saying Mr Hester has "rightly apologised for them, and that remorse should be accepted".

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

Read more: People may say racist things but that doesn’t make them racists, minister says in storm over Tory donor’s remarks

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

Kevin Hollinrake defends Tory donor's apology over 'racist comments' towards Diane Abbott

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hit out at Mr Sunak, accusing him of being “scared of his party” while he had changed his.

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".

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.

James O'Brien discusses Kemi Badenoch's response to Frank Hester's comments

Ms Abbott did not speak during this week's PMQs but Marsha De Cordova addressed the issue, asking if Mr Sunak would return a donation from Mr Hester.

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."

His response came despite him having earlier admitted that "the alleged comments were wrong... and racist".

He said: "I'm pleased that the gentleman is supporting a party that represents one of the most diverse governments in this country's history, led by this country's first British-Asian prime minister."

Post office minister Kevin Hollinrake this morning told LBC's Tom Swarbrick that Mr Hester’s comments were a “mistake”. But he said Mr Hester himself was not a racist.

“He’s apologised for what he’s said. Clearly to judge somebody’s character by their skin colour is the wrong thing to do, that’s why he’s apologised. People make mistakes," Mr Hollinrake said.

“He accepts his comments were wrong, and they were racist, and he’s apologised for them. I don’t think that means Mr Hester is a racist.

“If you say racist things and don’t apologise for them that makes you racist but if you say something racist and then apologise that’s a different thing I think.

“We all come across people at times who say racist things but are not racist.”