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Frank Hester: West Yorkshire Police probing 'racist' comments about Diane Abbott by Tory party donor

West Yorkshire Police is investigating alleged racist comments made by Tory party donor Frank Hester about Diane Abbott at a meeting in 2019.

The force said on Friday it was working to establish whether a crime had been committed after the businessman allegedly said Ms Abbott, Britain's longest-serving black MP, made him "want to hate all black women" and that she "should be shot".

The investigation was passed over from the Metropolitan Police as the meeting took place in Horsforth, Leeds.

A spokesperson said officers were now "working to establish the facts and to ultimately ascertain whether a crime has been committed".

The comments allegedly made by Mr Hester were brought to light by The Guardian in an article on March 11.

West Yorkshire Police said the comments were first brought to the attention of police following the publication of the article.

The force said the investigation had been passed over from the Metropolitan Police as the meeting at which the comments were allegedly made took place in Horsforth, Leeds.

A spokesperson said officers were now "working to establish the facts and to ultimately ascertain whether a crime has been committed".

"We recognise the strong reaction to these allegations and appreciate everyone who has contacted us since the article was published,” said a West Yorkshire Police spokesperson on Fridat.

"As we continue our inquiry, we are keen to hear from anyone who could directly assist our investigation."

Mr Hester, chief executive of The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), has admitted making “rude” comments, and said he is “deeply sorry”. But he insisted they had “nothing to do with [Ms Abbott’s] gender nor colour of skin”.

In a statement released via his firm, Mr Hester said he had rung Ms Abbott to “apologise directly for the hurt he has caused her”.

The statement said: “Frank Hester accepts that he was rude about Diane Abbott in a private meeting several years ago but his criticism had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin.

“The Guardian is right when it quotes Frank saying he abhors racism, not least because he experienced it as the child of Irish immigrants in the 1970s.

“He rang Diane Abbott twice today to try to apologise directly for the hurt he has caused her, and is deeply sorry for his remarks.

“He wishes to make it clear that he regards racism as a poison which has no place in public life.”Mr Hester donated £10 million to the Tories last year, according to Electoral Commission records.

He individually donated £5 million to Mr Sunak’s party in May and gave another £5 million via his healthcare software firm in November.

Also in November, TPP donated £15,900 for Mr Sunak to use a helicopter for a political visit, according to the PM’s Commons register of financial interests.

A spokesperson for Rishi Sunak said the comments the Guardian alleged had been made were “racist and wrong”.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said: “The comments allegedly made by Frank Hester were racist and wrong. He has now rightly apologised for the offence caused and where remorse is shown it should be accepted.

“The Prime Minister is clear there is no place for racism in public life and as the first British-Asian Prime Minister leading one of the most ethnically diverse Cabinets in our history, the UK is living proof of that fact.”

Any information can be reported through 101 or via the West Yorkshire Police website, using reference number 13240137018 or quoting ‘Operation Brassminster’.