Question Time Panellist Claims Frank Hester Gave Tories A 'Blank Cheque For Racism'

Ayesha Hazarika got a round of applause for her take on the row surrounding the Tory donor's alleged Diane Abbott comments.

Broadcaster Ayesha Hazarika suggested the Conservatives’ lacklustre response to the row around donor Frank Hester was akin to a “blank cheque for racism” on BBC Question Time last night.

Hester – who donated £10 million to the Conservative Party last year – is facing intense an backlash after the Guardian reported he once said MP Diane Abbott “made him want to hate all Black women” and “should be shot”.

The Tories have not handed back the money, despite growing pressure to do so.

It also emerged yesterday that Hester has given the party another £5m which has yet to be declared.

Directing her anger at fellow panellist Lee Rowley, the minister for housing, Hazarika said: “This guy is a disgusting racist, he is bankrolling the Conservative Party – will you give that money back?”

A huge round of applause broke out at that.

Hazarika also slammed the government’s defence of Hester, saying: “When you say he apologised, he did not even recognise his abhorrent, frightening racism.

“He said he had just been a bit rude – he would not even accept that.

“If you are going to be preaching to the country about extremism, you have to put your money literally where your mouth is.”

The government unveiled a new definition for extremism yesterday, describing it as the “promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance”.

PM Rishi Sunak has called Hester’s comments “racist and wrong” but has repeatedly defended him by pointing out the donor did apologise.

However, the donor has only said sorry for being “rude” about Abbott.

Diane Abbott is currently a backbench MP.
Diane Abbott is currently a backbench MP.
Guy Smallman via Getty Images

Rowley, responded to Hazarika’s criticism by saying: “All the way through this, there are different MPs and different people in political life who make comments that are wrong.”

“Who has said that they’re going to shoot somebody?” Hazarika cut in.

Rowley ignored that and referred back to former Labour frontbencher John McDonnell’s 2016 comments that Tory Esther McVey was a “stain on humanity”.

The minister continued: “As a society we have a broader question to answer about whether we accept people that are contrite, they still have things to do.”

He also said he did not think the Conservatives were handing back the donation.

“So basically £15 million gives you a blank cheque for racism,“Hazarika said - prompting a huge round of applause from the audience.

“Shame on you,” she added.

“That is absolutely not true,” the minister cut in.

He said next time somebody in the Labour Party says something “incorrect”, “I hope and look forward to you absolutely putting them out of public life forever”.

Then host Fiona Bruce offered up Hester’s response to all of these accusations, noting he has apologised for being rude and said he abhors all forms of racism – prompting laughter from the audience.

Elsewhere in the programme, a member of the audience also received a robust round of applause after he described Hester’s alleged comments as “extremism”.

He said: “If that is not extremism, I don’t know what is.

“I am also thinking about the countless Black women, Black girls, who hear that on TV, and that’s a massive safeguarding issue.

“What will that girl think, that she’s not accepted in the society that we live in?

“I was not shocked, that’s how sad it is that we’re getting used to that, but I was angry and I hope we protect Diane Abbott at all costs.”


What's Hot