PoliticsTory donor ‘racism’ dispute is embarrassing for all involved

Tory donor ‘racism’ dispute is embarrassing for all involved

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A Tory minister has said his party would take another £10m from a donor who allegedly made comments about Diane Abbott that No 10 called “racist”.

Tory Donor Frank Hester apologised after reportedly saying the ex-Labour MP made him want to “hate all black women”. Andy Street, a Tory mayor, told the BBC that he would return the cash, however, Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said that his party would accept more because Mr Hester’s apology demonstrated he was not racist.

The disagreement within the party comes as Downing Street faces calls to return the money.


What Happened?

The disagreements over returning Mr Hester’s money come after a day of internal party turbulence over Mr Hester’s comments, first reported by the Guardian on Monday.

In 2019 Mr Hester allegedly said: “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.”

In further remarks reported by the newspaper from the same meeting, the Phoenix Partnership boss is claimed to have said that there was “no room for the Indians, then?” and suggested staff climb on a train roof.

In a social media post, published earlier, Mr Hester said he “abhors racism”, which he described as a “poison that has no place in public life”.

He added: “We should have the confidence to discuss our differences openly and even playfully without seeking to cause offence.”

Frank Hester made the comments at a meeting he called of his ‘foreign’ workers to defend himself against claims he had made racist remarks. Photograph: TPP / YouTube

Why did Downing Street take so long to call it racism?

No 10 and Conservative ministers initially stopped short of making that criticism of Frank Hester’s remarks. However, Sunak’s spokesperson released a new statement on Tuesday evening, after a day in which Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, the former chancellor, and William Hague, the former Conservative leader, all described Hester’s comments as racist.

The fact that it took our first minority Prime Minister 24 hours to work out whether clear evidence of racism was in fact racist is shameful. This demonstrates a weakness in Sunak to lead from the front which many of his critics have long complained about. This is the latest instalment in a series of unfortunate events from the Tory party in a week, including the defection of party deputy chairman, Lee Anderson.

The responses

This scandal has evoked some very eery responses from commentators across the UK. Top of this list has been an impassioned defence of Frank Hester by GB New’s Nana Akua

What is most egregious about this defence of the indefensible is the claim that Akua makes that she wasn’t personally offended as though that should have any currency here. The central point is that someone was criticised and their gender and skin colour were part of that criticism. Whilst it may be odd not to find that offence, this is a plausible position. However, the statement that Mr Hester’s comment wasn’t racist is pure fantasy.


In a statement released on Monday, Mr Hester’s company said he “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”. It added: “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 1970s.

“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.”

Ms Abbott said as a “single woman” she was already “vulnerable” when walking or taking a bus in her Hackney constituency.

“For all of my career as an MP I have thought it important, not to live in a bubble, but to mix and mingle with ordinary people,” she added.

“The fact that two MPs have been murdered in recent years makes talk like this all the more alarming.”

Mike Omoniyi
Mike Omoniyi
Mike Omoniyi is the Founder and Editor In Chief of The Common Sense Network. He oversees and is responsible for the direction of the Network. Mike is an activist, singer/songwriter and keen athlete. With a degree in Politics Philosophy and Economics, MA in Political Science (Democracy and Elections) and an incoming PhD on a study of Cyber-Balkanisation, Mike is passionate about politics and the study of argumentation. He is also the Managing Director of a number of organisations including, Our God Given Mission, The BAM Project and The Apex Group.

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