Kemi Badenoch Claims Frank Hester Row 'Wasn't Even Really About Diane Abbott'

The cabinet minister suggested the ongoing furore around the Tory donor is now "trivia".
Kemi Badenoch said the Frank Hester row "wasn't even really about Diane Abbott"
Kemi Badenoch said the Frank Hester row "wasn't even really about Diane Abbott"
BBC Breakfast

Kemi Badenoch has claimed top Tory donor Frank Hester’s alleged comments about Diane Abbott “weren’t even really about Diane Abbott”.

According to The Guardian, Hester said back in 2019 that Abbott made him “want to hate all Black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Badenoch, the business secretary, was the first member of the government to publicly call Hester’s reported remarks racist, before even Rishi Sunak did so.

But, on Monday she told LBC the Conservatives should still not give back the £10 million Hester donated last year.

Speaking to LBC host Nick Ferrari, she said: “I’m actually quite surprised people suggest this.

“This is something he said five years ago, he wasn’t talking to Diane Abbott, it wasn’t even really about Diane Abbott, he used her in a reference which was completely unacceptable.

“He has apologised for it.”

Hester’s company TTP said in a statement that Hester “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”.

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

Back on LBC, Badenoch said the whole saga – which erupted last Monday – was “taking too much attention away” from more meaningful issues.

Ferrari asked: “So it’s OK to take millions of pounds from people who make racist comments?”

The cabinet minister replied: “That’s not what I said. He did not make those comments yesterday.”

“He did make racist comments though,” Ferrari pushed.

“I am very aware of what he said, Nick, I don’t need you to tell me,” Badenoch hit back.

They began to speak over each other, until the minister said: “These comments were no way reflective of the work he’s been doing while we’ve taken his money.

“We need to get to the point where we stop chasing people around and looking everywhere for the racism.

“The person he’s made the comments about has of course been suspended from the party for the same thing.”

Abbott was suspended from the Labour Party last year after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people had never been “subject to racism”.

Badenoch continued:“We are ending up in a spiral where everyone is accusing and counter-accusing around racism, I think we need to move away from these things.”

Ferrari asked if Hester needed to at least accept his comments were racist, to which Badenoch replied: “I think he’s apologised for that.”

“He hasn’t accepted they’re racist,” the host noted again.

“We’ve been talking about this for well over a week now, this is trivia, I’m sorry, but I really do believe it is,” the minister said.

She said this government had been working to tackle racism, and said Hester’s comments “were not really in the high priorities of how we deal with racism in this country”.


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