Sunak faces PMQs amid calls to return cash to donor accused of racist remarks

Frank Hester is alleged to have said Diane Abbott made him 'want to hate all black women' and that she 'should be shot'.

Rishi Sunak will face Prime Minister’s Questions amid calls to return £10m donated to the Conservative Party by a donor accused of making racist comments.

Frank Hester is alleged to have said Diane Abbott, Britain’s longest-serving black MP, made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Sunak is facing calls to hand back the money given to his party by Mr Hester after the Prime Minister belatedly condemned his remarks as “racist and wrong”.

Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said on Wednesday that returning the cash is not the “right thing to do” and suggested the Tories would accept further donations from the businessman.

Asked whether he would be comfortable spending Mr Hester’s donations, Hollinrake told Sky News: “On the basis he is not a racist, has apologised for what he said, yes.”

Pressed on whether the party would take more money from him, the minister told BBC Breakfast: “As I now understand the situation, yes.”

He also said he thinks there are “bigger issues at play here that we need to focus on, in terms of probably greater priorities” for the Government and that “we should try and move on from this now”.

“I don’t believe Mr Hester is a racist person,” Hollinrake said.

“What he has said here, in a private conversation half a decade ago, he has apologised for. I don’t think we need to spend too much time on that given he has made that apology.”

But in a sign of Tory divisions over the issue, Conservative West Midlands mayor Andy Street said he would return the cash.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I would think about the company I kept and I would give that money back.”

After ministers and Downing Street refused to describe Mr Hester’s comments as racist for most of Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman finally labelled them as such in the evening.

It came after business secretary Kemi Badenoch broke ranks to call them out as racist late on Tuesday afternoon.

Hollinrake defended No 10’s delay and argued that “we have the most diverse Cabinet in history”.

Asked about criticisms that Sunak had failed to set the agenda over the racism row, Hollinrake said: “If you don’t mind me saying, I think you are setting the agenda in terms of all the interpretation and speculation you are making about various different things that happened yesterday.

“No 10 has been very clear that these comments were wrong, were racist.”

In a statement after 6pm on Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman 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.”

Sunak faces a grilling by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions after the fallout intensified on Tuesday night following a Guardian report of further comments allegedly made by Mr Hester.

According to the paper, Mr Hester, the chief executive of healthcare software firm The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), allegedly referred to “no room for the Indians” during a crowded meeting, and suggested they “climb on the roof, like on the roof of the train there”.

He has admitted making “rude” comments about Abbott, but claimed they had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

Abbott herself said the reported comments were “frightening” and “alarming” given that two MPs – Jo Cox and Sir David Amess – have been murdered in recent years.

Police are understood to have been contacted about the remarks, with Scotland Yard saying officers from its Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team are in touch with an MP about a report in the Guardian, which broke the story.

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