‘Unequivocally racist’: Hackney politicians unite in condemnation of Tory donor’s abuse of Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott MP. Photograph: UK Parliament/Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Hackney councillors are united in denouncing the recent racism directed at Diane Abbott – as the Hackney North MP was forced to cancel an appearance at a protest over concerns for her safety.

On Monday, the Guardian revealed that the Conversative party’s largest donor, businessman Frank Hester, told colleagues that looking at Abbott makes you “want to hate all Black women” and that the MP “should be shot”.

The comments were made at a business meeting in 2019.

Since May 2023, Hester has made two £5 million donations to the Tory party.

Abbott has described donor’s comments as “frightening”.

Earlier today, the Independent reported that the MP has reported Hester to the Metropolitan Police.

Abbott was to be the headline speaker at an anti-racism rally organised by Hackney Stand Up to Racism and Fascism (HSUTR), but pulled out because of safety fears. In the past eight years, two MPs have been murdered.

In response to her cancelled appearance,HSUTR said: “We stand with Diane Abbott against the racists.

“We look forward to marching with her in central London on Saturday – M16 UN Anti-Racism Day – and to working together to build a future free of the racism and misogyny which Rishi Sunak’s government encourages.”

In a statement to the Citizen, Mayor of Hackney Caroline Woodley slammed Hester’s comments as “unequivocally racist and misogynistic”.

“Diane has served her constituents in Hackney North and Stoke Newington with dedication for decades, but during this time she has been subject to horrifying levels of abuse and threatening behaviour,” Woodley added.

“This is completely unacceptable in any context and Diane has my full support.”

Abbott has been MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, making her the first Black female MP and the longest-serving Black MP.

Victoria ward councillor Claudia Turbet-Delof, recently suspended by Hackney Labour for voting to hear a motion on calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, regularly campaigns to end violence to female politicians.

She said: “The political persecution of Diane Abbott must stop.”

“Diane has endured years of abuse,” she continued. “It should be sufficient evidence to create a new law that protects women and all in public office from bullying, harassment, and all types of violence.”

“I am determined to fight for this law to come into force in the UK,” she added.

Hackney Greens are also standing in solidarity with Abbott.

Zoë Garbett, leader of the local Green group and the party’s London mayoral candidate, said: “The Green Party supports Black women in politics and believes that we have a duty of care to protect them from all forms of hate.”

Antoinette Fernandez, Green parliamentary candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, added: “That a wealthy Tory donor feels entitled enough to get away with racist incitement to the murder of a Black female politician is sadly unsurprising to me.

“However, I am appalled by the tacit approval shown by other Tory politicians who were silent on this matter for an embarrassingly long time.

“I fully support our party’s call for the Conservatives to donate £10 million to anti-racism and domestic violence campaigns across the country. It would be the very least they could do after an appalling track record in dealing with our country’s institutional racism – which Black women consistently bear the brunt of.”

Regarding the Conservative party response, a representative of Hackney Labour said: “We would expect local Conservatives in Hackney, as well as the national Conservative party, to be condemning such hatred, and to return any money Mr Hester has donated, insisting he apologise for his comments and retracts them.”

Hackney Conservatives have been approached for comment but are yet to respond.

Tony Wong, CEO of Hackney CVS, said Hester’s comments “serve as a stark reminder of just how far we have yet to go in rooting out racism and misogyny within the very institution the great British public elects to govern our country”.

He called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to return Hester’s donations, adding: “Anything less can only be considered an affront to all Black women, and everyone who stands with Black women.”