Both parties failing to tackle racism, says Abbott as Tory donor row continues

Diane Abbott has accused the Conservatives and Labour of failing to tackle racism as the Prime Minister remains under pressure to hand back £10 million to a major donor.

Businessman Frank Hester is alleged to have said Ms Abbott, Britain’s first black female MP, made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”, in comments the Prime Minister finally described as “racist” after initially refusing to do so.

In a series of newspaper articles published on Wednesday evening, Ms Abbott said the “reluctance to call out racism and sexism” was “shocking, but hardly surprising”, and warned the Conservatives would “play the race card… ruthlessly” at the next election.

But she also took aim at her own party, of which she remains a member despite losing the Labour whip last year over accusations that a letter she had written to The Observer was antisemitic.

Writing in The Independent, she said the position of the Labour leadership was “disappointing”.

She added: “It seemed equally reluctant at the outset to call out either racism or sexism. In fact, a number of Labour statements were issued, and interviews given where neither word was mentioned.

Frank Hester
Frank Hester (CHOGM Rwanda 2022/YouTube/PA)

Ms Abbott also said she had not received an apology after a 2022 report by lawyer Martin Forde on Labour’s internal culture found she had been the target of abuse by senior party officials.

Labour has pushed for the Conservatives to hand back the money, with Sir Keir Starmer describing Mr Hester’s alleged comments as “racist and misogynistic”.

Mr Sunak has also described the alleged comments as racist, but said Mr Hester’s “remorse should be accepted” and resisted calls to return the businessman’s £10 million.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

On Wednesday evening, Conservative peer and former Marks & Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose told ITV’s Peston that the party should “probably” return the money.

He said: “You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror at the end of every day and say have you done the right thing. Does it smell right? Does it look right? Does it feel right?

“It doesn’t smell right, it doesn’t look right, it doesn’t feel right, and I think there’s a case to answer.”

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