UK Conservative party may accept more money from donor in racism row, minister says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 13, 2024 | 5:59 AM

By Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s governing Conservative Party might accept financial support from its biggest donor in the future despite him becoming embroiled in a row over racism, a minister said on Wednesday.

Frank Hester, who has given 10 million pounds ($12.8 million) to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s party in the last year, has issued an apology after the Guardian newspaper reported he said that looking at the country’s longest-serving Black lawmaker made him “want to hate all Black women”, and that she “should be shot”.

Hester said the 2019 comments about Diane Abbott were rude but had nothing to do with her gender nor her skin colour.

After originally declining to pass judgment on the comments, Sunak’s spokesperson eventually called them “racist and wrong” and opposition parties said the Conservatives should return Hester’s donations.

However, junior business minister Kevin Hollinrake said Hester had apologised and was not necessarily a racist person, so the party didn’t need to return the money.

Asked if the Conservatives would accept another 10 million pounds from Hester, Hollinrake told BBC TV: “On the basis that we don’t believe Mr Hester is a racist, yes.”

Hester has said he abhorred racism.

The furore has plunged the Conservatives into another internal conflict over racism. The party’s former deputy chairman, Lee Anderson, was suspended after he refused to apologise for saying London’s first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, was under the control of Islamists.

Conservative lawmakers repeatedly said those comments were wrong but declined to say why, or say if they were Islamophobic and Anderson has since defected to the small right-wing Reform UK party.

“Zero tolerance on racism is just a slogan in today’s politics,” Nus Ghani, another junior business minister said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Michael Holden)