Frank Hester: PM under pressure over 'new £5m' from donor accused of racism

  • By Sam Francis
  • Political Correspondent, BBC News

Rishi Sunak is under fresh pressure over his ties to Frank Hester – a party donor embroiled in a betting row – amid reports his party received £5m more than previously known.

The Conservative Party initially did not deny the reports Published by Turtle MediaReceived undisclosed funding from Mr Hester.

Party donations made after December will not be released until June.

Labor and the Lib Dems have demanded the Tories return the money.

Mr Hester donated £5m to the party last May, with a further £5m donated by his company in November.

According to parliamentary records, he gifted the prime minister the use of a helicopter for a political visit in November, worth £15,900.

Tortoise Media has now received a further £5m in cash donations from him, which the party has yet to announce, taking his total contribution to £15m in the past year.

The register of donations maintained by the election watchdog is updated only every three months, which means there is a delay in making donations public.

The tech boss apologized for making “rude” comments about the ex-Labour MP, but said his comments had “nothing to do with her gender or the color of her skin”.

The Prime Minister called the comments “racist” and “wrong” but argued that Mr Hester's apology should be accepted.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt declined to say whether the Tories had accepted the £5m from Mr Hester.

He said the party was committed to following rules on reporting donations and that gifts received would be reported “in due course”.

'No permission'

During a heated Prime Minister's Questions session on Wednesday, Mr Sunak rejected repeated demands to hand over Mr Hester's donations.

Responding to a BBC question about further donations from Mr Hester, the Conservatives issued a tax statement saying: “Notifiable donations are routinely disclosed by the Electoral Commission.”

One of the Conservative Party's biggest donors, he is known to have given the party £10m last year, representing a fifth of the party's donations that year, which totaled £48m.

He is the founder and chief executive of TPP, a Leeds-based health technology company that is a supplier of records management systems to the NHS.

On Friday, the British Medical Association, which represents UK GPs, passed a resolution calling on him to resign and urging GP practices to “consider” his alleged comments before signing new contracts with his organisation.

Labor leader Anneliese Dodds said: “There is absolutely no reason for the Conservatives to accept more money from Frank Hester. They have to pay it back before it hits the Treasury.

“Rishi Sunak must repay every penny, cut ties with Frank Hester and apologize unreservedly to Diane Abbott.”

The Liberal Democrats said the donation, if confirmed, would “show the scandal is worse than we thought”.

Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain said: “People like Mr Hester and his attitudes should be nowhere near our politics.

“Conservative politicians need to learn that just because someone gives you millions of pounds is unforgivable, inexcusable.”

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