'I'm Not Frustrated': Kemi Badenoch In Excruciating Clash With BBC Presenter

The business secretary insisted the country "has moved on" from the row over Frank Hester's comments about Diane Abbott.

Kemi Badenoch was involved in an excruciating clash with a BBC presenter this morning over top Tory donor Frank Hester’s “racist” comments about Diane Abbott.

The business secretary told John Kay that the country has “moved on” from the row which has dominated the political headlines for nearly a week.

Hester, who has given the Tories at least £10 million in the last year, allegedly said Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and “should be shot”.

Badenoch was the first cabinet minister to describe his remarks as “racist” last week, forcing Rishi Sunak to follow suit.

But on BBC Breakfast this morning, Badenoch made clear her annoyance at being asked about the controversy.

She said she was “amazed that over a week later I’m still being asked about it”.

But John Kay told her: “You felt strongly enough about it to come out on social media and say that they were racist, even though at the time the prime minister hadn’t done so.”

Badenoch replied: “Yes, that was a week ago, I’m surprised I’m still talking about it.”

The presenter hit back: “Are you surprised? This is a man who is the Conservative Party’s biggest donor, we know that he’s given £10m to your party. Are you comfortable with the fact that money is not being given back?”

The minister said: “Yes. As I said last week when I explained my views, I thought that the comments were racist but he had apologised. I think when people apologise we need to accept that and move on.

“This wasn’t something that he had said on the day. These were reported comments five years ago which were made in private and his recollection of it is not clear either.

“I have said that as reported those comments were racist, but in the grand scheme of things that I am looking at and the problems that I am trying to solve, this is nowhere near the priorities of any of my constituents or the general public.”

Asked if the Tories should accept any more money from Hester, Badenoch said again that he had apologised and insisted “that should be the end of the matter”.

She added: “This is one of the reasons why, I think, the public are fed up with the way that politics is trivialised.

“We are all working very hard to do so much for the people of this country, and yet we end up spending all our time answering questions about last week’s news.”

Kay replied: “I can sense your frustrations, but doesn’t this get back to the question about Rishi Sunak, which is if he had come out and said what he was eventually forced to say, that these comments were racist, then this wouldn’t have dragged on for so long?”

Badenoch said: “I’m afraid I disagree. The only reason it’s still dominating the front page is because you are not interested in the work the government is doing, you are interested in a story from last week which has been apologised for and everyone has moved on.

“I’m not frustrated, I’m very happy to answer the questions, but it’s more reflective about what the BBC is interested in rather than what the government is doing.”

In a separate interview this morning on LBC, Badenoch even claimed that Hester’s comments “weren’t even really about Diane Abbott”.


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