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Tories ‘in talks’ over extra £5m from donor embroiled in Diane Abbott race row

The Conservative Party is “in talks” about an additional £5m from a Tory donor embroiled in a race row, Sky News understands.

Two sources said discussions are ongoing about the extra money from Frank Hester, which if received, would take the amount he has donated since 2019 to £15m.

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The businessman has been embroiled in a race row over comments he is reported to have made about left-wing MP Diane Abbott, including that she “should be shot” and that she makes him “want to hate all black women”.

Reports emerged on Thursday that the donor – who had already given £10m to the party personally and through his firm The Phoenix Partnership (TPP) – may have given another £5m which has not yet been published by the Electoral Commission.

The watchdog only publishes lists of donations every three months but according to Tortoise Media, a Tory source said the party is “sitting on” a further £5m of cash.

However, Sky News understands the money has not yet been handed over.

There has been no official comment from the party on the reports.

Earlier, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the Conservatives are “absolutely” transparent about declaring donations – while refusing to confirm if his party had received more money from Mr Hester.

Asked if that was the case, Mr Hunt did not answer the question directly but said: We absolutely are transparent. We follow all the rules, the regulations. We believe in that transparency.

“Many of the laws about that we actually passed ourselves and the Conservative Party fully complies with all the requirements to be transparent about all donations.”

Mr Hester’s comments have drawn widespread criticism, with the prime minister describing them as “racist” and “wrong”.

The donor said he was “deeply sorry” for the remarks, but insisted they had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

The Tories were already under pressure to hand back the £10m in donations Mr Hester is known to have made since 2019.

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‘Remorse of donor should be accepted’

In a sign of internal divisions over the row, the Scottish Tories have called for a “review” into the donations with deputy leader Meghan Gallacher saying it would determine “what the party knew and how we can actually move forward”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Friday, she said she could not comment on the “unverified” donation, but that she would seek clarification from the UK Conservative Party on the report.

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While Mr Sunak has condemned Mr Hester’s remarks, he has said his apology should be accepted.

He appeared to rule out handing back the cash during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, saying he was “pleased” the businessman was supporting “one of the most diverse governments in this country’s history”.

Responding to the latest reports, Anneliese Dodds, the Labour Party Chair, said: “It is frankly staggering that, after his repugnant racist and sexist remarks, the Conservative Party are still trying to arrange a donation from Frank Hester. It shows the depths to which the Tory Party has fallen.

“The Conservatives need to pay back every penny, cut ties with Frank Hester and apologise unequivocally to Diane Abbott.

“And Rishi Sunak needs to grow a backbone and deal with the extreme views that appear to be tolerated in his party.”

Sky News Source