April 17, 2024

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Cabinet Minister Mark Harper denies that the Conservatives have a problem with race

Cabinet Minister Mark Harper denies that the Conservatives have a problem with race
  • Written by Sam Francis
  • Political correspondent, BBC News

Video explanation,

WATCH: Mark Harper says Conservatives 'don't have a race problem'.

A senior government minister has denied the Conservative Party has a problem with race after accepting at least £10 million from a donor accused of racism.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper told the BBC he was in “the most ethnically diverse government ever”.

Harper said his party welcomes members “regardless of their race.”

Donor Frank Hester has apologized after saying former Labor MP Diane Abbott made him want to “hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Mr Harper also declined to comment on reports that the Conservatives had accepted an additional £5m from Mr Hester, which would take his total donations to the party to £15m in less than a year.

He told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg program that he was not involved in funding the party, but “if there is a future donation in the future, that will be announced in the usual way.”

“As the Prime Minister said this week, we are a party proudly led by the first British Asian Prime Minister,” he added.

He said that the current government is “the most ethnically diverse government ever.”

He added: “We are a party that welcomes people from all over the UK whatever their background, whatever their race, if they share our values ​​and our approach to politics.”

Mr Harper said “we must accept” Mr Hester's apology.

But former Downing Street adviser Samuel Kasumu said he was disappointed by Harper's argument.

Kasumu said having “the most diverse government in history” was not a “get out of jail free card” on race issues.

The former adviser to Boris Johnson has been a frequent critic of the Conservative Party's approach to race since leaving government in a row over a report on racism.

Paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Kasumu said: “It is not the color of your skin that matters when it comes to tackling racism and discrimination and bringing communities together – it should be the content of your character and your willingness to lead.”

“Some of our most divisive politicians are people like Suella Braverman,” the former interior minister who is of Indian origin, Kasumu added.

Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim leader of the Conservative Party, said on Sunday that her party had become known as a “racist and xenophobic establishment party”.

Speaking on Politics North, Baroness Warsi, who led the Conservative Party between 2010 and 2012, said: “We should not be a party that takes money from people who have views like those.” [Mr Hester] He allegedly had.”

the The Guardian reports That Mr. Hester made comments about Ms. Abbott while criticizing a female executive at another organization during a meeting at his company's headquarters in 2019.

The newspaper reported that he went on to say: “It's like trying not to be racist, but you see Diane Abbott on TV, and you're just like I hate, you just want to hate all black women because she's out there, and I don't hate all black women at all, but I think she should be shot.

The BBC did not hear any recording, and was unable to independently verify the alleged statements.

Hester, an IT executive, apologized for making “rude” comments about Ms Abbott, but said his comments had “nothing to do with her gender or skin colour”.

in social media sharing, Hester later said that he “abhorred racism,” which he described as “a poison that has no place in public life.”

The Guardian investigation led to a week of political backlash against Hester, thrusting Ms Abbott into the center of the debate about racism in politics.

In an article, Ms Abbott, who now serves as an independent MP, criticized racism within both the Conservative and Labor parties.

She said the government's deportation plan in Rwanda showed they intended to play the “race card” as the next elections approached. Ms Abbott also criticized Labour, saying: “Racism in politics is not just an issue for any particular political party.”

The Labor MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington was suspended by Labor in April last year after writing in the Observer that Irish, Jews and Travelers had not experienced racism “in all their lives”. She later retracted her comments and apologized “for any distress caused.”

Video explanation,

Watch: Abbott stood up to try to get the speaker's attention 46 times

Former Labor deputy leader Harriet Harman told the program that Harper's comments proved there was still a “problem”.

“You have to realize that even though black people and women have come forward in politics, there is still a greater backlash and that's what people are facing,” she said.

“The danger in tackling discrimination is complacency.”

Ms Harman added that the reason Conservatives were “reluctant” to criticize Mr Hester and return his donations was “because they accepted such a huge sum of money”.

But she said Labor “certainly has further to go” in tackling racism.

“Who can say there isn't a problem? We have to realize it was a wicked, terrible problem,” Ms Harman said.

Shadow cabinet minister Jonathan Ashworth said Labor “must not be complacent about racism – we must challenge it”.

He added: “We must challenge Islamophobia and anti-Semitism if we see it in our party as we see it when we see it in society as a whole.”

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