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Labour donor Dale Vince’s comments about Hamas were appalling, says Rayner

Major Labour donor Dale Vince should “reflect” on his “appalling” remarks about Hamas, deputy party leader Angela Rayner has said.

Mr Vince shared an opinion on Times Radio last year that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” when asked about the Palestinian militant group that carried out the October 7 attacks on Israel.

The raids left 1,200 people dead and saw the Palestinian militant group take about 250 hostages.

The incursion sparked the latest Middle East conflict that has seen more than 30,000 Palestinians killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, during Tel Aviv’s retaliatory strikes.

Asked at a lunch with Westminster reporters on Thursday whether she thought the comments had been appropriate, Ms Rayner said: “In terms of the comments by Dale Vince, in that context, absolutely not, no.”

She added: “In that context, I think it is appalling and I don’t think he should have said it.

“And I think he should reflect on that. Language is important.”

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt raised the remarks in Parliament on Thursday in response to Labour calling for the Tories to return the £10 million that health entrepreneur Frank Hester donated to the Conservatives last year.

Mr Hester is alleged to have said former Labour MP Diane Abbott, Britain’s longest-serving black MP, made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot” — comments Downing Street have conceded were “racist”.

Senior Tory minister Ms Mordaunt, after raising Mr Vince’s Hamas comments, said: “If Labour are sincere in this matter and this is not a political stunt they will commit to repaying those funds.”

Mr Vince is a significant contributor to Labour’s war chest, with the Opposition party accepting another £1 million from the green energy industrialist’s Ecotricity firm in November, according to figures published by the Electoral Commission.

Frank Hester apology
Vince Dale said the Tories were trying to distract from ‘racist’ comments made by party donor Frank Hester (CHOGM Rwanda 2022/YouTube/PA)

The chairman of Forest Green Rovers football club said he had been targeted by “another right-wing smear” designed to “distract from the row” over Mr Hester.

He said on Wednesday: “It takes the form of a doctored video clip which gives a false impression of an interview I did last year.”

Mr Vince has since shared part of the Times Radio interview in which he replied “yes” when asked if he agreed with Labour’s position that Hamas are terrorists and Israel has a right to defend itself.

He told the PA news agency: “The Tory reaction to the racist, sexist and violent language used by their biggest donor aimed at Diane Abbott is not to put their own house in order but to throw mud at anyone who gives money to Labour.

“The story about me today is a fabrication. It’s simply a distraction from the horrendous language of their top donor, which they firstly refused to condemn and whose money they still refuse to return.”