Advertisement

Rishi Sunak Has Finally Said Frank Hester's Comments About Diane Abbott Were 'Racist'

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) talks with Ahmad Al Dubayan, Director General of the London Central Mosque (not in frame) during a visit to the Mosque on March 11, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Daniel Leal - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) talks with Ahmad Al Dubayan, Director General of the London Central Mosque (not in frame) during a visit to the Mosque on March 11, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Daniel Leal - WPA Pool / Getty Images) WPA Pool via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak has finally said Frank Hester’s alleged comments about Diane Abbott were “racist”.

The move came hours after business secretary Kemi Badenoch broke ranks to do so and followed a day of confusion in Downing Street.

In a statement issued this evening, a No.10 spokesman said: “The comments allegedly made by Frank Hester were racist and wrong.

“He has now rightly apologised for the offence caused and where remorse is shown it should be accepted.

“The prime minister is clear there is no place for racism in public life and as the first British-Asian prime minister leading one of the most ethnically diverse Cabinets in our history, the UK is living proof of that fact.”

The Guardian reported yesterday 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.

However, senior government figures were initially sent out by Downing Street to defend Hester this morning.

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

At two separate Downing Street briefings for journalists today, the PM’s spokespeople also repeatedly refused to say Hester’s remarks were racist.

But pressure was piled on Sunak when business secretary Kemi Badenoch posted on X: “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.”

Hester, who runs health tech firm TPP, allegedly made the remarks at a staff meeting.

Talking about a female executive at another firm, he reportedly said: “It’s like trying not to be racist but you see Diane Abbott on the TV, and you’re just like I hate, you just want to hate all black women because she’s there, and I don’t hate all black women at all, but I think she should be shot.

″[The executive] and Diane Abbott need to be shot.”

TPP said 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 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.”

Related...