Minister defends Tory donor accused of making racist comments about Diane Abbott

Energy minister Graham Stuart said today that he would “hesitate” to describe Frank Hester’s comments as racist

Graham Stuart

A Tory minister is being widely condemned after defending a party donor who reportedly said Diane Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Energy minister Graham Stuart said today that he would “hesitate” to describe Frank Hester’s comments as racist, as he warned against ‘cancel culture’ and said that he welcomed anybody who supported the Tory party.

The Guardian revealed that Hester, who is the Tory party’s biggest donor and who has given £10m to the party in the past year, made the comments during a business meeting in 2019.

He is reported to have said: “It’s like trying not to be racist but you see Diane Abbott on the TV, and you’re just like … 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.”

In a statement released via his firm, Hester said he had rung Abbott on Monday to “apologise directly for the hurt he has caused her”. He also posted a comment on X where he said he ‘accepts that he was rude about Diane Abbot in a private meeting several years ago’.

However, his comments have been widely condemned with demands for the Tory party to return Hester’s donation. Labour MP Dawn Butler posted on X, formerly Twitter: “No it is not rudness. It is deep-seated RACISM the fact that you want to hate ALL Black women is the very definition of prejudice and racism.

“Calling for an MP to be shot and starved is sick, dangerous and shows a worrying level of violence. The government has given you £millions contracts &  access to our data. You talk about AI (Artificial Intelligence) you should be nowhere near government contracts or AI. 10DowningStreet this should worry us all. @RishiSunak return donation and rescind all contracts.”

On Sky News earlier today, Stuart was pressed on whether the Tories should return Mr Hester’s donations, to which he replied: “We can’t cancel anybody from participation in public life, or indeed donating to parties, because they said something intemperate and wrong in their past.

“It’s not my decision, but I do welcome those who support the Conservative Party.”

Commenting on his media appearances defending Hester, John Crace posted on X: “How much more humiliating can this be for a cabinet minister? Graham Stuart sent out on media round with instructions from Number 10 not to say Hester is a racist.

“Someone with self-worth would have just told the truth.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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