11 minutes ago
About sharing

Watch: Tories ‘don’t have race problem’, says Mark Harper

By Sam Francis
Political reporter, BBC News

A senior cabinet minister has denied the Conservative Party has a problem with race after accepting at least £10m from a donor who is accused of racism.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper told the BBC he was part of “the most ethnically diverse cabinet there has ever been”.

He said his party welcomes members “whatever their race”.

Donor Frank Hester apologised after reportedly saying MP Diane Abbott made him want to “hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

The party has refused repeated calls to return Mr Hester’s money, despite labelling his alleged comments as “racist” and “wrong”.

When asked on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme if the Tory party has “a problem with race”, Mr Harper said: “Absolutely not.

“As the prime minister said this week we are a party proudly led by the first Britain Asian prime minister.”

He said the current cabinet is “the most ethnically diverse cabinet there has ever been”.

“We are a party that welcomes people from across the UK whatever their background, whatever their race, if they share our values and approach to politics,” he added.

Mr Harper argued that “we should accept” Mr Hester’s apology.

Still ‘a problem’

Mr Hester, an IT executive, apologised for making “rude” comments about ex-Labour MP Ms Abbott but said his remarks “had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

In a social media post, Mr Hester later said he “abhors racism”, which he described as a “poison that has no place in public life”.

Mr Harper refused to comment on reports the Conservatives have accepted a further £5m from Mr Hester, which would take his total donations to the party to £15m in under a year.

He said he was not involved in party finance but “if in the future there’s a future donation, that will be declared in the usual way”.

Former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman told the programme that Mr Harper’s comments proved there was still “a problem”.

“You have to recognise that even though there’s been an advance of black people and women into politics there is still an even greater backlash and that’s what people are facing,” she said.

“The danger to tackling discrimination is complacency.”

Ms Harman added that the Tory party were “hesitant” to criticise Mr Hester and hand back his donations was “because they’ve accepted such a huge amount of money”.

Related Topics

More on this story

1 day ago
3 days ago
3 days ago
4 days ago
4 days ago