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Tory donor not ‘racist’ despite alleged Diane Abbott remarks, claims minister

A Conservative minister says he does not believe his party’s biggest donor is a racist, despite alleged comments he made about former Labour MP Diane Abbott – in which he apparently said she made him “want to hate all black women”.

Rishi Sunak took the whole of Tuesday to call out the remarks from businessman Frank Hester that were first reported in the Guardian, eventually saying they were “racist and wrong”.

But despite the condemnation, the prime minister said the remorse from the donor “should be accepted”.

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake repeated Mr Sunak’s criticism this morning, telling Wilfred Frost on Sky News the alleged comments were “clearly racist and wrong and there’s no question… you don’t judge somebody’s character based upon their skin colour”.

But he added: “I think the key thing now is, is Mr Hester himself a racist? I don’t believe so from what I know, and I don’t know him.

“But I think in the context of what we know in the situation that we know right now, we should try and move on from this now, and I think that’s the right thing to do.”

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After the reports first emerged, Mr Hester – who has donated over £5m to the Conservatives since the 2019 election – said he was “deeply sorry” for the “rude” remarks he made about Ms Abbott, including apparently saying she “should be shot”.

But he insisted they had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

Since then, the Guardian has reported further comments he is alleged to have made to staff, asking a meeting if there was “no room for the Indians”, before suggesting employees climb on a train roof.

In a statement on Tuesday, Ms Abbott said it was “frightening” and “alarming” to hear such comments, especially after two MPs – Labour’s Jo Cox and Conservative Sir David Amess – have been murdered.

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