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Minister refuses to say whether Tories will take more cash from racism row donor

17 Mar 2024 3 minute read
Transport Secretary Mark Harper speaks to the media outside BBC Broadcasting House in London. Photo Lucy North/PA Wire

A UK Government minister has refused to confirm whether the Conservatives have taken another £5 million donation from Frank Hester, the businessman accused of making racist remarks about an MP.

Mark Harper also declined to comment on “hypotheticals” when pressed repeatedly on whether the party will accept more cash from the top donor.

Mr Hester allegedly said in 2019 that Diane Abbott, Britain’s longest-serving black MP, made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Remorse

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has resisted calls to return the £10 million Mr Hester has given his party, saying the businessman’s “remorse should be accepted”.

Reports emerged this week that Mr Hester may have offered £5 million more, which has not yet been published by the Electoral Commission.

On the Sunday morning media round, Mr Harper repeatedly evaded questions about the extra cash.

The Transport Secretary told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “We took a donation that predated his comments and we’ve declared that in the usual way, which is how people know that he’s made that donation.

“He’s made comments and he’s apologised for them and the Prime Minister has made it very clear that the donation stands.

“If in the future there’s a future donation, that will be declared in the usual way. But that’s a hypothetical question that will be looked at.”

Fallout

Mr Sunak has been criticised for his handling of the fallout from the emergence of Mr Hester’s alleged comments.

The Prime Minister eventually condemned the remarks as “racist”, but only after Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch broke ranks with Downing Street to call them out as such.

Mr Harper defended Mr Sunak over the 24-hour prevarication, saying: “Although you said it took an age in political terms, it didn’t really take very long at all.

“The Prime Minister was very clear on Wednesday and his spokesman had been clear the evening before that they were racist comments.”

When it was put to him that No 10 changed its tune only after Ms Badenoch’s intervention, Mr Harper said: “I’m sure people wanted to make sure and check the facts.

“Having an argument about how many hours it took to say something, I don’t really think is the issue here.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago

No, the issue is the £15 million kick-back to the government for the award of the contract…this out of the health budget is not just immoral in the extreme but should be by any measure illegal, plain and simple criminality between government and a private individual tendering for public contracts…

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
26 days ago

Did his donation predate his comments, or only predate them being widely publicised? If the latter we’re really talking about the remorse for getting caught.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
26 days ago

The English Tory party is corrupt from top to bottom. Whether it’s dirty money from Russian oligarchs to non doms living in the Cayman Islands, the racist Conservatives are there like a bloodhound sniffing out money. Today I watched Politics Wales on BBC1 Wales where we saw both First Minister Vaughan Gething being interviewed, pleasantries were said and so on. Afterwards on the programme we heard Scottish sellout former PM Gordon Brown indicate Wales might, and I emphasise might, have more devolution but he was extremely vague opting to eulogise ex- FM Mark Drakeford. I said ” might” all pessimistic… Read more »

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