'Racist and wrong': Rishi Sunak's office breaks silence on prejudice of alleged Tory donor comments

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Sadiq Khan had criticised prime minister Rishi Sunak, saying he should be calling out “racist and misogynistic" comments allegedly made by a Tory donor about Diane Abbott.

As pressure grew on the prime minister, his office issued a statement on Tuesday using the word 'racist' in response to alleged comments by his party's biggest donor.

The Guardian broke a story on Monday alleging that Frank Hester said at a meeting in 2019 that Hackney MP Diane Abbott makes you "want to hate all black women because she’s there", adding "and I don’t hate all black women at all, but I think she should be shot".

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Mr Hester has since apologised for "hurt he has caused her", but saying his remarks "had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin".

Rishi Sunak's office originally declined to describe as racist the comments allegedly made by the man who has given his party £10 million.

But the prime minister's spokesperson said on Tuesday evening: “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.”

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Ms Abbott has filed a complaint with the police about the comments. She said she found the remarks “frightening” following the murders of fellow politicians Jo Cox in 2016 and Sir David Amess in 2021.

Tory donor Frank Hester allegedly said the former Labour MP made him 'want to hate all black women'Tory donor Frank Hester allegedly said the former Labour MP made him 'want to hate all black women'
Tory donor Frank Hester allegedly said the former Labour MP made him 'want to hate all black women' | Getty Images

Sadiq Khan on Frank Hester comments

Earlier on Tuesday, mayor of London Sadiq Khan told LondonWorld the prime minister needs to call out racism and Islamophobia.

Mr Khan was recently subject to “racist and Islamophobic” remarks made by Ashfield MP Lee Anderson, who refused to apologise for claiming that “Islamists” had “got control” of the mayor.

Mr Anderson was kicked out of the Conservatives and has since joined Reform UK.

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“What I hope Rishi Sunak, the leader of the Conservative Party, would be doing is calling these out for what they are,” Mr Khan said.

“In the case of Diane Abbott, racist and misogynistic, in the case of me Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and racist.

“I’m unclear why Sunak is so weak and doesn’t want to call these out. He should call them out and speak for the millions of decent people who know this is racist and misogynistic in Diane’s case and Islamophobic and anti-Muslim and racist in my case.”

Diane Abbott statement

In a statement, Ms Abbott said: "It is frightening. I live in Hackney and do not drive, so I find myself, at weekends, popping on a bus or even walking places more than most MPs. I am a single woman and that makes me vulnerable anyway. But to hear someone talking like this is worrying."

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She added: "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. The fact that two MPs have been murdered in recent years makes talk like this all the more alarming."

Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour Party Chair described Mr Hester’s comments as “reprehensible”.

“Frank Hester is the Conservative Party’s biggest ever donor, as well as a personal donor to the prime minister, it is therefore vital that Rishi Sunak and the Tories return his donations, in full without delay,” said Ms Dodds in a statement.

“Rishi Sunak has claimed that 'words matter', and he must know that holding on to that money would suggest the Conservatives condone these disturbing comments. Sunak must return every penny.”

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Frank Hester OBE statement

A statement posted on Mr Hester's X account on Monday said: "Frank Hester accepts that he was rude about Diane Abbot 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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