Kemi Badenoch Breaks Ranks To Say Frank Hester's Comments About Diane Abbott Were 'Racist'

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak remains tight-lipped in Downing Street.
Kemi Badenoch became the most senior Tory figure to speak out against Frank Hester.
Kemi Badenoch became the most senior Tory figure to speak out against Frank Hester.
Carl Court via Getty Images

Kemi Badenoch has said Tory donor Frank Hester’s alleged comments about Diane Abbott were “racist” as pressure mounted on Rishi Sunak to do the same.

The Guardian reported that Hester said in 2019 that said Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

That led to calls for the Tories to hand back the £10 million he gave to the party last year.

A spokesman for TPP, the tech firm Hester runs, 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”.

Downing Street repeatedly refused today to call the remarks “racist”, insisting instead that they were “unacceptable”.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister, who spent the day working in No.10, told reporters: “What is alleged and reported to have been said would clearly have been unacceptable, but we are not going to characterise further alleged comments from source reporting.”

But Badenoch broke ranks with the PM to make her views clear on X (formerly Twitter).

She said: “Hester’s 2019 comments, as reported, were racist.

“I welcome his apology. Abbott and I disagree on a lot. But the idea of linking criticism of her, to being a black woman is appalling. It’s never acceptable to conflate someone’s views with the colour of their skin.

“MPs have a difficult job balancing multiple interests -often under threats of intimidation as we saw recently in parliament.

“Some people make flippant comments without thinking of this context. This is why there needs to be space for forgiveness where there is contrition.”

Meanwhile, health minister Maria Caulfield told the BBC: “I condemn these comments – I personally do find them racist- it’s not something we should be kind of excusing in any way.”

The comments were at odds with fellow ministers Graham Stuart and Mel Stride, both of whom sought to play down the row earlier today.

Stuart, the energy minister, said Hester made his comments “half a decade ago”, while work and pensions secretary Stride said “we need to move on”.

In his first public comments on the row, Hester said “racism ... is a poison that has no place in public life”.

He added: “The UK benefits immensely from the rich diversity of people - like my parents - who had roots in another land, religion and culture.

“We should celebrate those differences which have made us the world’s most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy. And we should have the confidence to discuss our differences openly and even playfully without seeking to cause offence.”

In a statement, Diane 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.”

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


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