Police contacted over Tory donor’s alleged remarks about Diane Abbott

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has said alleged comments made about Diane Abbott by a Tory donor were “racist” – but that there should be “space for forgiveness”.

Ms Badenoch is the first cabinet minister to use the term to describe Frank Hester’s reported remarks about the former Labour MP, after government ministers including Graham Stuart and Mel Stride criticised the comments but declined to call them racist.

Mr Hester allegedly said Ms Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and that the MP “should be shot”, according to reports in the Guardian.

In a statement written on his behalf on Monday night, Mr Hester – who donated £10 to the Tories last year – said he was “deeply sorry” about the comments but said they had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson has described the remarks as “unacceptable” but also would not say if they he believed they were racist.

But in a post on X, Ms Badenoch wrote: “Hester’s 2019 comments, as reported, were racist. I welcome his apology.

“Abbott and I disagree on a lot. But the idea of linking criticism of her, to being a black woman is appalling.

“It’s never acceptable to conflate someone’s views with the colour of their skin.”

She added: “MPs have a difficult job balancing multiple interests – often under threats of intimidation as we saw recently in parliament.”

“Some people make flippant comments without thinking of this context.

“This is why there needs to be space for forgiveness where there is contrition.”