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Government Adviser Says Tories Should “Cut Ties” With Donor Over Race Row

The government's independent adviser on antisemitism Lord John Mann has said the party should "cut ties" with Frank Hester. (Alamy)

3 min read

The government's independent adviser on antisemitism has said the Conservatives should "cut ties" with its biggest donor who reportedly made racist remarks about MP Diane Abbott.

On Monday The Guardian reported that Frank Hester – the Conservative party's biggest donor, donating £10m to the Conservative party in the last year – made the remarks during a work meeting in 2019. 

During the meeting he reportedly said he believed Abbott, the UK's longest serving black MP, "should be shot" and that the MP made him "want to hate all black women". 

“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," Hester reportedly said. Hester has publicly apologised for the remarks, conceding they were "rude" but claiming his comments "had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin". 

Lord John Mann, the government's independent adviser on antisemitism who has also worked closely with House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle on MP safety, described Hester's reported remarks as “dehumanising” and “dangerous” to both Abbott and to “many people of colour”.

Mann said that any party dealing with remarks like Hester’s should be “on the front foot” and “spelling out the home truth” – urging the Conservatives to “cut ties” with the donor.

“The only solution that a political party can make is to totally distance themselves in every way from the perpetrator of this abuse - whichever party they're in - and if they're a member, expel them,” said Mann.

“And if they're donor, give their money to charity. There's no ambiguity about these remarks, it's not even for debate."

After Number 10 spent Tuesday falling short of referring to Hester's remarks as "racist", instead saying they were "unacceptable", on Tuesday night the prime minister's spokesperson 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.”

It followed a growing number of Conservatives condemning the comments as racist over the course of Tuesday - including trade secretary and equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch

"Hester’s 2019 comments, as reported, were racist," said Badenoch on X on Tuesday afternoon.  "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."

Mann said Abbott, who receives the most abuse of all MPs in parliament, had “been a repeat target” for abuse over the years.

“I can recall incidents with her that I had to challenge that were horrendous inside the Labour Party, going back to the early 2000s,” said Mann.

“And that's just in my small world that was happening. And because she's vocal and outspoken, and prominent and recognisable - and she obviously recognisable because she's one of the few black women at the forefront of politics - that makes them more recognisable."

The independent adviser on antisemitism also added that Hester’s remarks “undermined” democracy. 

“Democracy is undermined by this attack,” said Mann. “This is an attack on the British way of life, and our freedoms - that's how it should be seen by the general public.”

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