Abbott denied Commons opportunity to speak on racist comments as anger mounts over Tory donor

Diane Abbott. Pic: PA media

Hackney MP Diane Abbott was consoled by other MPs after she was not given time to speak in the House of Commons on Wednesday about the racist remarks she faced from Tory donor, Frank Hester 

Abbott rose to speak more than 40 times during Prime Ministers Questions as Labour leader Keir Starmer challenged Rishi Sunak over the remarks and whether the Conservatives would return the £10m donated by businessman Hester. She was ignored by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and was later consoled by Starmer and other MP’s.

Abbott, the independent MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington who was suspended by Labour last year over alleged anti-semetic remarks had anticipated speaking on the matter, but said later that she could not say why Sir Lindsay did not call her. The speaker’s office said later that it was due to time constraints.

She wrote in the Guardian, that she thought she would be called due to “Hester’s abusive comments” about her in the “news bulletins that day” and as she was referred to several times by name during the PMQ exchanges, 

Hester has admitting telling colleagues in 2019 that looking at Abbott made “you want to hate all black women” and said the MP “should be shot”. 

Initially, Downing Street declined to describe Hester’s comments as racist but after Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, the former chancellor, and William Hague, the former Conservative leader, all described Hester’s comments as racist, the Prime Minister released a new statement. Sunak’s spokesperson said: “The comments allegedly made by Frank Hester were racist and wrong.”  However the Tories have refused to return the dionations.

Caroline Woodley, Mayor of Hackney said Hester’s comments were “unequivocally racist and misogynistic”.  She told ELL: “Diane has served her constituents in Hackney North and Stoke Newington with dedication for decades, but during this time she has been subject to horrifying levels of abuse and threatening behaviour. This is completely unacceptable in any context and Diane has my full support. 
“Hate has no place in our politics, and the Conservative Party must be held to account for the presence of such dangerous attitudes in the ranks of its supporters.” 

Abbot had been due to attend a meeting of the local anti-racism group of which she is president Hackney Stand Up to Racism (SUTR), on Monday night as the news broke of Hester’s comments but she cancelled because of what she called ‘security reasons.’ Two MP’s – Jo Cox and David Amess – have been murdered by extremists in recent years.

Around 50 people who were meeting to plan their involvement in a major anti-racism march in central London on Saturday, staged a show of support for Abbott after hearing about the Hester comments, chanting: “solidarity with Diane Abbott.” 

Abbott is still expected to join the march on Saturday, which will start at the Home Office and end at New Scotland Yard.  

SUTR said in a statement to ELL: “We look forward to marching with her in central London on Saturday – M16 UN Anti-Racism Day – and to working together to build a future free of the racism and misogyny which Rishi Sunak’s government encourage.” 

Sasha Simic, a member of Hackney Stand Up to Racism told Eastlondonlines: “This government is pushing racism down from the top, and it’s encouraging racists in society to organise and to feel more confident.” 

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