Company of disgraced Tory donor Frank Hester dropped as Leeds pride sponsor

Leeds Pride said the racism revelations made it ‘imperative’ for the event to ‘reassess its association with the company’

Zoe Grunewald
Thursday 04 April 2024 17:17 BST
Rishi Sunak has defended the party’s decision to keep Frank Hester’s donation

The health tech company belonging to disgraced Conservative party donor Frank Hester has been dropped as a sponsor from Yorkshire’s largest LGBTQ+ celebration after the CEO was embroiled in a racism row.

Mr Hester came under fire after it was revealed he had made racist comments about Labour MP Diane Abbott, having said she made him “want to hate all back women” and that “she should be shot”.

Now the organisers of Leeds Pride have announced they are ending their sponsorship deal with Mr Hester’s company in a stance against discrimination.

In a statement confirming it was cutting ties with TPP, Leeds Pride said: “This move comes after discussions with the board of directors and collaborative partners, reflecting a stand against discrimination and in support of creating an inclusive atmosphere.”

Frank Hester allegedly made the comments in 2019 (Screengrab/PA) (PA Wire)

The TPP chief executive came under fire after it was revealed that he had donated £10m to the Conservative party which Rishi Sunak has refused to return despite condemning his remarks as “racist” and “wrong”.

Leading government figures have since asserted that retaining the money was justifiable since Mr Hester is “not a racist” and has issued an apology.

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch dismissed the row over the alleged comments as “trivia” and insisted the Conservative party should not return the businessman’s £10m.

Ms Abbott, who is currently suspended by Labour, described Mr Hester’s reported comments as “frightening”.

Mr Hester has since apologised for his remarks, which he said were “rude”, but insisted they were not motivated by race or gender. His comments are now subject to an investigation by West Yorkshire police.

In its statement, Leeds Pride added: “In light of recent developments involving alleged racist comments made by the TPP’s chief executive, it became imperative for Leeds Pride to reassess its association with the company. The decision to terminate the sponsorship agreement underscores the organisation’s dedication to upholding the values of diversity within the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

“Leeds Pride acknowledges the concerns voiced by members of the community and recognises the importance of taking steps to uphold its principles. Through this decision, Leeds Pride asserts its position as an advocate for inclusivity, striving to ensure that Pride celebrations remain a platform for equality.”

Diane Abbott called Frank Hester’s comments ‘frightening’ (PA Wire)

Hester’s company has been a sponsor of celebration since 2017 and said in a post on X last month that it was “Proud to be supporting Leeds Pride again!” at this year’s event.

TPP has been approached for comment. The news was first reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post.

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