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The Diane Abbott racism row reveals how principles compete with money in the Tory party

A major Conservative Party donor allegedly racially abused the Black MP, leaving her feeling ‘unsafe’. I have a question for the PM: at what point do principles matter more than million-pound donations?

Femi Oluwole
Tuesday 12 March 2024 20:04 GMT
Tory donor's Diane Abbott comments are 'abhorrent', Keir Starmer says

The left wants to see racism everywhere. You can’t even say that seeing a Black politician on TV makes you want to hate all Black people, and call for that MP to be shot anymore, without the tofu-eating wokerati calling you racist!

According to the Tories, their biggest donor, Frank Hester, is just the latest victim of cancel culture.

Energy minister Graham Stuart, when asked about the £10m Hester has donated to the Conservatives, told Sky News: “I welcome those who contribute.” He also said on BBC Radio 4 Today that we shouldn’t be “cancelling anyone who’s ever said anything” – and that “we need to show understanding”.

Meanwhile, the work and pensions secretary Mel Stride says he doesn’t think the comments were “gender-based or race-based”. Rishi Sunak on Tuesday belatedly described Mr Hester’s comments as racist.

So why is the Tory party defending and welcoming money from someone who reportedly said: “You see Diane Abbott on the TV, and you’re just like I hate, you just want to hate all Black women because she’s there, and I don’t hate all Black women at all, but I think she should be shot”?

I think I know why: remember when Lee Anderson was suspended from the Tory Party for Islamophobic comments and defended his views by saying they weren’t offensive to “some of my donors”? That was yesterday.

It appears the Tories won’t even try to hide the influence that money has on their politics. After all, in June 2022, Nadine Dorries begged Tory MPs not to axe Boris Johnson as prime minister by saying: “The Conservative Party donors have said they aren’t going to support the party if the prime minister is removed… £80m those donors have donated.”

The majority of Tory MPs then voted for Johnson to stay on as PM.

It begs the question: who are our politicians really working for? When private companies were paying Tory MP Owen Paterson £112,000 to (inter alia) push for the policies they wanted, while his MP salary was £84,000, who was his real boss – the public or the corporations? (Tory MPs were clearly happy with it being the latter, because despite being found guilty of the most “egregious” case of paid lobbying in UK history, the majority of Tory MPs voted to change the rules to let him off).

And now that a major Conservative Party donor has seemingly racially abused a prominent Black female MP, leaving her feeling “unsafe”, I have a question for Rishi Sunak: at what point do principles matter more than million-pound donations?

I’m not saying that people like Anderson and Johnson would be champions of social equality if it wasn’t for the money. To me, it’s clear they just don’t care about the damage they do. Anderson, as deputy chair of the Conservative Party, said “culture wars and trans debate” were “great ingredients” to win the next election. That led to Rishi Sunak making jokes at the expense of trans people while the mother of murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey was in parliament.

Johnson once said in a TV interview: “I’ve got a brilliant new strategy, which is to make so many gaffes, so nobody knows which one to concentrate on.” He then did things like liken Muslim women who wear the burka to letterboxes, which led to a 375 per cent increase in Islamophobic hate crime.

These are not people of principle. They follow money and power, and in the West, those with money and power tend to look a lot more like Frank Hester than Diane Abbott. It stands to reason, then, to me, that the interests of rich white men will be served long before those of poor Black women.

Of course, Abbott is not poor, but Hester’s comments pointed at “all” Black women. And he needs to know who he’s targeting. Government data shows Black families are statistically poorest, and Black women are hit by the gender pay gap on top of that. This is why Hester’s comments fall into a category of hatred known as “misogynoir”.

This attack is even worse in the context of the history of racist abuse, death and rape threats Abbott has spoken about receiving ever since she became the UK’s first Black female MP in 1987.

So, I’ll ask again: at what point do principles matter more than money? And when it comes to the Tory party, do they matter at all?

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