Hester’s Racial Barb

The new revelations accuse Tory donor of making comments about “the Indians” and saying he made “jokes about racism” during meetings with staff…reports Asian Lite News

Fresh comments allegedly made by Tory donor Frank Hester have emerged suggesting he joked about “the Indians” standing on the roof of a train in a staff meeting.

After Downing Street was forced to condemn businessman Hester for remarks he is said to have made about MP Diane Abbott, The Guardian published more allegations levelled against the businessman.

The new revelations accuse Hester of making comments about “the Indians” and saying he made “jokes about racism” during meetings with staff in Leeds.

He is said to have made the remarks during a meeting at the technology firm The Phoenix Partnership (TPP). Mr Hester runs the company, which has won several government contracts.

Speaking to staff on a balcony, overlooking a railway line, he asked if there was “no room for the Indians, then?” and added: “Climb on the roof, like on the roof of the train there maybe?”

The Guardian reported he then allegedly said he made “a lot of jokes about racism” and said he was looking forward to an upcoming trip to Malaysia “so that I can make new jokes – I don’t know any jokes about Malaysian people but I’m sure we’ll find them”.

The meeting was to address allegations of racism made by former employees in 2019, the newspaper reported.

He is accused of saying: “I do think that in a loving company, we should be able to make jokes about each other in a loving way, and tease each other, and enjoy each other’s company. And I think we all know the difference between a racial slur and perhaps ‘Asian corner’, which is still going on here today.”

The latest allegations were revealed after Downing Street was forced to condemn Hester’s comments about Abbott as “racist and wrong”.

Hester is alleged to have said the longest-serving black MP made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Rishi Sunak had come under pressure over the remarks after he refused to say they were racist.

In a new statement issued on Tuesday evening, 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.”

Hester, who has donated £10 million to the Tories in the past year, has admitted making “rude” comments about Abbott, but claimed they had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

Responding to the latest accusations, Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds said: “After finally conceding that his comments are racist, what further proof does Rishi Sunak need that the Conservatives accepting Frank Hester’s cash is completely wrong? After ministers lined up to dodge the reality of the situation, it’s time to face up to the facts: the Conservatives must apologise unequivocally to Diane Abbott, pay back these donations and root out the extreme views and prejudice which appears to be tolerated within the party.”

At the 2019 meeting for “foreign” workers, Hester gave his own definition of racism, saying: “For me, racism is just a hatred and a fear of the other. For me, it is just exactly the same as homophobia – it’s not limited to the colour of your skin, it is not limited to religion, it can just be the country next door, it can just be the county next door. It can be northerners and southerners, which we have here.”

In the same meeting, Hester said: “I make a lot of jokes about racism, about our different creeds and cultures. But I just want to assure you that it is just the most abhorrent thing.”

Carter-Ruck, representing Hester and TPP, has previously said Hester’s comments were distorted and taken out of context, and were not a true or accurate characterisation of the company or Hester.

Lord Marland, a businessman and Tory donor who says he knows Hester, told LBC that Hester was “an international businessman, he travels widely overseas – he does a lot of a business in Jamaica, he does business in Malaysia, in Bangladesh, in places like that – so he’s not a racist. He made some unfortunate remarks which do sound racist, and quite rightly, he’s apologised for them.”

A statement from TPP said Hester “accepts that he was rude about Diane Abbott in a private meeting several years ago but his criticism had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”. The statement said Hester had tried to apologise directly for the “hurt he has caused” and that he was “deeply sorry for his remarks”. The statement also said he abhorred racism.

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