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World News

Kemi Badenoch shows Christian 'forgiveness' over Tory donor's 'racist' remarks

by Donna Birrell

UK Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has said she believes comments said to have been made by a Conservative Party donor about the MP Diane Abbott should be forgiven.

The former Faith Minister, who has defined herself as a “cultural Christian” said a line should now be drawn under the row over comments alleged to have been made by Frank Hester.

Last week he was strongly criticised as being “racist and misogynistic” after being accused of saying Ms Abbott made him want to “hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.  He has apologised for the alleged remarks.

However Ms Badenoch said while she believes the comments were racist, it’s now time to move on:

“Hester’s 2019 comments, as reported, were racist,” she told Sky News

“I welcome his apology. Abbott and I disagree on a lot. But the idea of linking criticism of her to being a black woman is appalling. It’s never acceptable to conflate someone’s views with the colour of their skin.

“MPs have a difficult job balancing multiple interests – often under threats of intimidation, as we saw recently in parliament. Some people make flippant comments without thinking of this context. This is why there needs to be space for forgiveness where there is contrition.”

She sad she doesn't believe the party needs to give back a £10m donation from Hester. There are also some reports that an additional £5m has been pledged.

Asked by Sky News whether she would feel comfortable accepting further donations from Hester, she said: "I think if somebody has apologised and the comments appear to have been first of all very flippant, said a long time ago, I think it is fine for us to be able to accept and forgive and draw a line under it.”

Ms Badenoch served as Minister of State for Local Government, Faith and Communities from September 2021 until resigning in July 2022 to stand in the Conservative Party leadership election.

She was appointed as Business and Trade Secretary in February 2023. She has described herself as “an honorary or associate member of the Catholic Church.” When asked whether religion plays a part in her politics, she replied: “Not particularly, no. I define myself as a cultural Christian. My grandfather was a reverend.”

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