Rishi Sunak says: 'I will not return race divisive donor Frank Hester's money.'

  • Written by Brian Wheeler
  • Political reporter

Video explanation,

Starmer: Is the Prime Minister proud to be funded by a man who uses racist words?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has resisted opposition calls to return money to a Conservative donor who reportedly said MP Diane Abbott “should be shot”.

The Prime Minister said Frank Hester's alleged comments were “wrong” and “racist”.

But he repeatedly told MPs that Mr Hester had apologized and his “remorse should be accepted”.

Mr Hester has donated more than £10m to the Conservative Party, and in November gifted Mr Sunak the use of a helicopter for a £15,000 political visit.

In response to the Prime Minister's questions, Labor MP Marsha de Cordova asked Mr Sunak directly if he would return the helicopter donation.

He replied: “No. I am happy that the gentleman supports a party that represents one of the most diverse governments in the history of this country, led by the first British Asian prime minister in this country.”

Ms Abbott – who sits as an independent MP after being suspended by Labor – was present in the House of Commons but was unsuccessful in convincing the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to contact her so she could ask a question of her own.

A spokesman for Sir Lindsay said he had to prioritize MPs listed on the matter paper and “there was not enough time to contact all members who wanted to ask a question”.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer – who has so far resisted calls to reinstate Ms Abbott as a Labor MP – said the Prime Minister must have the “courage to return the £10m”.

Image source, Parliament of the United Kingdom / Maria Unger

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Rishi Sunak is facing calls to return £10m to a Conservative donor

Sir Keir asked: “Is the Prime Minister proud to take funding from someone who uses racist and misogynistic language when he says the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Mrs Abbott) ‘makes you want to hate all black women?’” Sir Keir asked. “”.

Mr Sunak responded: “The alleged comments were wrong, they were racist, for which he has rightly apologized and that remorse must be accepted.

“There is no place for racism in Britain, and the government I lead is living proof of that.”

Sir Keir also noted that Mr Sunak had tried to “pretend to be some sort of unifier” in his rhetoric on extremism outside Downing Street, but now found himself “tongue-tied, cowering in sophistry, hoping he could deviate long enough to make it work”. Everything leaves.”

Mr Sunak said he would “take no lectures at all” from Sir Keir, who said he “chose to serve a leader who has allowed anti-Semitism to run rampant in the Labor Party, and those are his actions, those are his values, and that is the way he conducts himself.” “He should be judged.”

Sir Keir responded: “The problem is that he is describing a Labor Party that no longer exists.”

Video explanation,

SNP's Stephen Flynn: Rishi Sunak is putting 'money before ethics' on Hester donations

Scottish National Party leader Stephen Flynn also called on the Prime Minister to return the donations and accused him of “putting money before morality”.

He described Mr Sunak's defense of Mr Hester as “complete nonsense” and described the businessman as “racist” and “extremely dangerous”.

“Isn't extremism what we should all be worried about? [are] “What Tory donor views have we read about this week?” asked the Prime Minister.

Mr Flynn and Sir Keir were seen speaking to Ms Abbott after the hearing ended. It is understood Ms Abbott asked Sir Keir to return her to the parliamentary Labor Party, when he asked if there was anything he could do.

The newspaper reported that in 2019, Mr Hester said: “It's like trying not to be racist, but you see Diane Abbott on TV, and you're just like I hate, you just want to hate all black women because she's out there, and I don't hate all black women.” “Not at all, but I think she should be shot.”

The BBC did not hear any recording, and was unable to independently verify the alleged statements. Mr Hester was asked whether the reported comments were accurate.

In a statement issued Monday, Hester said it “accepts that he was rude toward Diane Abbott in a private meeting several years ago, but his criticisms had nothing to do with her gender or skin color.”

The Scottish Conservatives said it had never accepted a donation from Hester and “the UK Conservative Party should carefully review the donations it has received from Hester in response to his comments”.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said she was writing to all Conservative MPs urging them not to accept “tainted” money from Hester.

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