Support our Nation today - please donate here

Minister defends major Tory donor embroiled in race row

12 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Frank Hester. Photo via YouTube

A minister has defended a major Conservative Party donor who reportedly said MP Diane Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

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

Labour and the Liberal Democrats branded Mr Hester’s alleged remarks as “clearly racist and abhorrent” and urged the Tories to return the money he has donated to the party.

He donated £10 million to the Tories last year, according to Electoral Commission records.

‘Rude comments’

Mr Hester, chief executive of healthcare software firm The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), has admitted making “rude” comments about Ms Abbott, the first black woman elected to Parliament, but claimed they had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

The Guardian reported that he told a company meeting in 2019: “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.

“(The executive) and Diane Abbott need to be shot.”

In a statement released via his firm, Mr Hester said he had rung Ms Abbott on Monday to “apologise directly for the hurt he has caused her”.

“Frank Hester accepts that he was rude about Diane Abbot in a private meeting several years ago but his criticism had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin,” the statement said.

“He wishes to make it clear that he regards racism as a poison which has no place in public life.”


Asked about Mr Hester’s comments, Mr Stuart declined to describe them as racist or “comment on hypotheticals”.

He told Times Radio: “I’m hesitating to call it that because I don’t like to sit in judgment on these things.

“It was clearly a ridiculous thing to say, he’s rightly apologised for it and here’s a man who’s supporting the most diverse Cabinet we’ve ever had under this Conservative Party.

“We’ve got a Hindu Prime Minister and he’s our biggest donor, so I don’t think this is a man who is a racist.”

On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Sunak said: “I don’t comment on hypotheticals. It hasn’t been verified. Clearly, whatever he said, it wasn’t acceptable, he has apologised, he has sought to reach out to Diane Abbott, and quite rightly too.”

Pressed on whether the Tories should return Mr Hester’s donations, Mr Stuart told Sky News: “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.”

Cabinet minister Mel Stride also defended Mr Hester, saying that while his alleged remarks had been “inappropriate” they were not “gender-based or race-based”.

The Work and Pensions Secretary added: “He has apologised and I think we need to move on from that.”

But opponents have criticised the Tories’ reluctance to describe Mr Hester’s reported remarks as racist and urged the governing party to hand back the money he and his company have donated.


Sir Keir Starmer said told ITV’s Lorraine: “The comments about Diane Abbott are just abhorrent…

“This apology this morning that is pretending that what was said wasn’t racist or anything to do with the fact she’s a woman, I don’t buy that I’m afraid, and I think that it’s time the Tory Party called it out and returned the money.”

He added that former Labour MP Ms Abbott “has been a trailblazer, she has paved the way for others, she’s probably faced more abuse than any other politician over the years on a sustained basis”.

Labour MP Sarah Jones told Sky News: “Of course the Conservative Party should be very quick to say these comments were racist and abhorrent, and of course we don’t want money from this kind of person.”

Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “Graham Stuart’s refusal to call out these racist comments was simply jaw-dropping.

“The Conservative Party has flat out refused to return these donations despite these comments being inexcusable. How low can you go?

“Rishi Sunak can bunker down and hide in Downing Street as long as he wants but every day he doesn’t return this money is another damning blow to the Conservative Party’s credibility.”

A Conservative spokeswoman said: “Mr Hester has made clear that while he was rude, his criticism had nothing to do with her gender nor the colour of her skin.

“He has since apologised.”

Ms Abbott, first elected as MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1987, has sat as an independent since April after the Labour whip was withdrawn following comments she made in The Observer suggesting Jewish, Irish and Traveller people are not subject to racism “all their lives”.

She is awaiting the outcome of an independent complaints process set-up by Labour to investigate her remarks.

The Guardian reported that TPP has been paid more than £400 million by the NHS and other Government bodies since 2016, having been given responsibility to look after 60 million UK medical records.

According to the TPP website, Mr Hester founded the company in 1997 as he worked on integrated care models.

In 2015, the businessman was made a member of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to healthcare.

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
29 days ago

Speed of the Conservative Party no action is not surprising. The defence is not surprising. This is what the party is now.

The Tory party will row this back at some point and Sunak will say they acted quickly (as he did with 30p NOT!).

Hester, a medical tech NHS contract owner, donates to the party in bucket loads, if you are a Conservative and cannot see what its wrong, you are what this is.

29 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

Oh yeah, Sunak had a stand up presser outside No10 decrying this sort of thing.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
29 days ago

As i do every morning i read the newspapers online the comments in the Tory Rag called the Daily Mail are as disgusting as what this low life said that Tory Rag alowed Racial Hatred comments to be printed but when i put a comment criticising the comments it was rejected

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
28 days ago
Reply to  Dai Ponty

Like when Guto Harri was kicked off GBeebies for taking the knee, his actions (your views in this case) were deemed to be not in line with their .. wait for it and get ready to spit your tea out .. ‘VALUES’.

29 days ago

PMQs tomorrow will be a bottom clenching experience for those on the government benches.
Six Bob Gob and £Ten million Bung Tongue.

All eyes and ears on Rishi ‘integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level’ Sunak.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
29 days ago

I thought they had made suggesting shooting MPs against the law…

£10 million bribe from government contractor…

The UK sure has become the Wild West of Europe…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
29 days ago

East Yorkshire Tory MP Graham Stuart defends the indefensible, once upon a time that is, (making it a conspiracy)…

before Fat Shanks, or BFS+BCTRS as it will become known as to modern historians of the future…

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
29 days ago

Graham stuart said “I’m hesitating to call it that because I don’t like to sit in judgment on these things.”

I take that as “I’ve heard people making racist comments before, I did nothing about it then and I’m doing nothing now!”

A political party full of racists, to describe them as in the gutter would be to elevate them to a position far higher than the one they currently occupy!

Last edited 29 days ago by Richard Davies

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.