The Tories are increasing their pressure on Sunak to give back the £10m donation from Hester.

The Tories are increasing their pressure on Sunak to give back the £10m donation from Hester.

Senior members of the Conservative party are urging Rishi Sunak to give back the £10 million donation from Frank Hester. This comes as there is growing unease over the donor’s remarks about Diane Abbott, which have been widely criticized for being racist and misogynistic.

Sunak stated in the House of Commons that after several Conservative members spoke out against it, the donation should be given back. He also mentioned that Hester had offered an apology for his comments and that his remorse should be acknowledged.

But Keir Starmer condemned the prime minister for having “shrunk at the first challenge” in his self-stated mission to combat extremism, and the decision to keep the £10m was also questioned by Andy Street, the Tory West Midlands mayor, and the Scottish Conservatives.

Some members of the Conservative party have raised concerns about Sunak’s stance in private. One leading member of parliament even contacted party leaders to make it clear that they believe the money should be returned.

On Monday, the Guardian newspaper reported that Hester expressed at a meeting in 2019 that being in the presence of Abbott made one “want to hate all black women” and suggested that she “should be shot”. The situation was further intensified by the delay of over 24 hours before Downing Street acknowledged Hester’s racist remarks. Sunak may potentially face continuous questioning about the issue of money.

Although No 10 is determined to not lose a significant portion of the Conservatives’ election funds, some members of the party are worried that this approach may not be feasible in the long run.

Street was the initial high-ranking Conservative member to suggest the £10 million be refunded. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, he stated, “I would consider the associations I have made and return that money.”

According to Chris Patten, a Conservative politician who served as a cabinet member for both John Major and Margaret Thatcher, there seems to be only one suitable course of action. Patten expressed how it is difficult to justify taking 10 million pounds from someone who has made racist remarks. He also mentioned that others, like Andy Street, have made similar statements, making it clear that the situation is straightforward. Patten believes that resolving this issue quickly would be the best approach.

Sayeeda Warsi, another Tory peer and a former party chair, said: “Elections fought on the money of donors who make racist and offensive statements makes for dangerous election campaigns.”

The Scottish Conservatives released a statement denouncing the remarks as “racist and incorrect”. They also urged the UK party to thoroughly examine the donations received from Hester in light of his comments.

During a loud prime minister’s questioning, Sunak contended that Hester’s apology should resolve the issue, and attempted to draw similarities with past actions of the Labour party, including Starmer’s representation of the Islamic organization, Hizb ut-Tahrir, while practicing as a lawyer.

The leader of the Labour party inquired of Sunak whether he takes pride in being financially supported by an individual who uses discriminatory language against certain races and women. This was compared to the Prime Minister’s lack of action regarding the donation, despite his recent speech denouncing extremist beliefs.

“He chose to anoint himself as the great healer, to pose as some kind of unifier,” Starmer said. “But when the man bankrolling his election says the member for Hackney North [Abbott] should be shot, he suddenly finds himself tongue-tied, shrinking in sophistry, hoping he can deflect for long enough that it will all go away.”

Andy Street walking along a street in a coat and scarfView image in fullscreen

Lee Anderson, who joined Reform UK after being stripped of the Tory party membership, stated on GB News that the public desires “consistency.”

He stated, “I departed from the gathering and was punished by having my privileges removed. I chose not to express regret. My stance remains that I will not offer an apology and rejoin the party, as we have witnessed further discrepancies from this donor.”

“Having ten million pounds for the party is certainly beneficial, but it’s important to maintain consistency. If there is a lack of consistency, people will not trust until it is consistently demonstrated.”

Asked about Hester’s remarks during a hearing with the Treasury select committee, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt stated that it would be unfair for Hester to face consequences for his comments, as he had already apologized for them.

When asked by Labour MP Angela Eagle if the Conservatives would return the money, Hunt stated that he does not think one should be punished for a previous statement that they have already apologized for. However, this does not diminish the inexcusable nature of the statement and he does not support it.

After being challenged by Eagle about the belief that being wealthy allows for avoiding consequences, Hunt replied that he believes the repercussions of his actions have been quite significant in terms of facing public ridicule.

A recent survey by 38 Degrees, a campaign organization, revealed that over 60% of individuals believe that “mainstream political parties should refuse donations from individuals who have made racist or offensive statements”.

Abbott, the MP with the longest tenure as a black representative in Britain, is currently an independent after being removed from the Labour party for supposedly downplaying the severity of anti-Semitism experienced by Jewish individuals. She made multiple attempts to ask her own question to Sunak during PMQs, but was not recognized by the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, causing frustration among members of Parliament.

Following Hester’s recent comments, his company TPP released a statement acknowledging that he had made rude remarks about Diane Abbott in a private meeting several years ago. However, they clarified that his criticism was not motivated by her gender or race. The statement also emphasized Hester’s stance against racism, citing his personal experience as a child of Irish immigrants in the 1970s.

He made two phone calls to Diane Abbott on Monday in an attempt to personally apologize for the harm he caused. He expresses sincere remorse for his comments and firmly believes that racism has no place in the public sphere.