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

12 March 2024, 18:41 | Updated: 13 March 2024, 00:40

Sunak said the comments were 'racist and wrong'
Sunak said the comments were 'racist and wrong'. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Rishi Sunak believes alleged comments made about Diane Abbott by Tory donor Frank Hester were "racist and wrong".

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A spokesperson for Mr Sunak said: "The comments allegedly made by Frank Hester were racist and wrong. He has now rightly apologised for the offence caused and where remorse is shown it should be accepted.

"The Prime Minister is clear there is no place for racism in public life and as the first British-Asian Prime Minister leading one of the most ethnically diverse Cabinets in our history, the UK is living proof of that fact."

Frank Hester, who donated £10 million to the Conservatives in the past year, is reported to have said that Diane Abbott 'makes you want to hate all black women'.

Mr Hester is also accused of saying Ms Abbott "should be shot", according to The Guardian. He denies the comments were racist or to do with her gender.

There is no mention from Mr Sunak's spokesperson of handing back the £10 million donated by Mr Hester amid growing calls for the Tories to do so.

Andrew Marr: 'Let's not' move on from Frank Hester's 'gross' Diane Abbott comments

Mr Sunak's rebuttal of the Tory donor came just hours after Kemi Badenoch became the first government minister to break ranks by labelling Mr Hester's comments racist.

Writing on X, Ms Bedenoch said: "Hester’s 2019 comments, as reported, were racist. I welcome his apology.

"Abbott and I disagree on a lot. But the idea of linking criticism of her, to being a black woman is appalling. It’s never acceptable to conflate someone’s views with the colour of their skin."

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

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

In a second post, she continued: "MPs have a difficult job balancing multiple interests - often under threats of intimidation as we saw recently in parliament.

"Some people make flippant comments without thinking of this context. This is why there needs to be space for forgiveness where there is contrition."

Tory peer: 'We shouldn't be leaving it to Black Conservative MPs to tell the truth about this'

Mr Hester's comments were allegedly made by in 2019 at his firm's headquarters, The Phoenix Partnership (TPP).

Mr Hester, the founder and chief executive of TPP, a healthcare software firm, allegedly made the remarks about Ms Abbott as he criticised a female executive from another company.

He reportedly said: "She’s sh*t. She’s the sh*ttest person. Honestly, I try not to be sexist but when I meet somebody like [the executive], I just …"It’s like trying not to be racist but you see Diane Abbott on the TV, and you’re just like I hate, you just want to hate all black women because she’s there, and I don’t hate all black women at all, but I think she should be shot."

"[The executive] and Diane Abbott need to be shot. She's stupid … If we can get [the executive] being unprofessional we can get her sacked. It’s not as good as her dying. It would be much better if she died. She’s consuming resources. She's eating food that other people could eat. You know?"

Police have said they are in contact with Ms Abbott and said are assessing the alleged remarks.

Tory MP Marcus Fysh calls on Rishi Sunak to 'stand up' for Diane Abbott

It comes as Lord Simon Woolley, a friend of Diane Abbott, told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr that despite the MP being a "strong black woman" with "resilience", Abbott was now feeling "vulnerable" as a result of Mr Hester's comments.

The Tories, including ministers, MPs, and the prime minister's spokespeople, had earlier refused to describe the comments as racist.

Speaking with LBC's Andrew Marr, Lord Woolley said "this is a pivotal moment" where the condemning of such comments is concerned.

"I'm proud that after 30 years campaigning, we have the most diverse parliament in the western world. That's a good thing. It's not a good thing when we're not calling out racism," continued Lord Woolley."

In fact, it becomes worse because you have a facade of diversity, but you have a rhetoric of alienation and division between black and white.

"This is the time the Starmer, this is a time for Sunak to stand up and be counted and show us what you care about."

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