The Frank Hester row has become a ridiculous spectacle

British politics has been reduced to Labour and the Tories calling each other racists.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Politics UK

So this is what British politics has come to. Despite the myriad crises facing the UK today, our parliament decided to spend most of yesterday’s PMQs arguing about which of the two main parties is the most racist.

The spur for this schoolyard slanging match was this week’s revelation that big-cheese Tory donor Frank Hester might have said something racist about MP Diane Abbott in a private meeting back in 2019. ‘You see Diane Abbott on the TV’, he reportedly said, ‘[and] you just want to hate all black women because she’s there’. ‘I don’t hate all black women at all’, he allegedly added, ‘but I think she should be shot’.

‘Is the prime minister proud to be bankrolled by someone using racist and misogynist language’, harrumphed labour Leader Keir Starmer in his first question to Rishi Sunak yesterday lunchtime. Almost all of the questions that followed were in the same vein. L’affaire Hester was the only issue on Starmer’s mind.

Sunak agreed that Hester’s alleged words were racist, but said he had accepted Hester’s apology and would not return the £10million he donated to the Conservatives. The PM then used most of his answers to accuse Starmer’s party of being the real racists. He raised the Labour leader’s past work as a lawyer for anti-Semitic Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. And he pointed to the rampant anti-Semitism of the Corbyn era. Besides, the Tories could not possibly be racist, Sunak claimed, because they have ‘one of the most diverse governments in this country’s history, led by this country’s first British Asian prime minister’.

And on it went. No, your party is more racist, Sunak and Starmer barked at each other, in turn, ad nauseam. It was more befitting of a late-night, Chablis-soaked spat on social media than a debate in the mother of parliaments.

You do not have to think that Hester’s alleged remarks were in any way defensible to find the obsession with them a little troubling. If the reporting is at all accurate – and Hester vehemently denies that it is – then the comments were clearly rank. But they were also made in private, five years ago. (Apparently, those in his company found his words so outrageous that they waited half a decade to bring them to light.) This all smacks of offence archaeology. It’s become little more than an excuse for mudslinging and moral grandstanding.

Even after the Starmer / Sunak set-to yesterday, opposition MPs couldn’t let Hester-gate go. Incredibly, the SNP’s Stephen Flynn tried to compare the Tory donor’s comments to the rise of Islamist extremism. Islamist extremism may have claimed the lives of nearly 100 Britons in the past two decades, but according to Flynn, Hester’s off-colour remarks were an example of ‘the extremism’ we should actually ‘be worried about’. The loss of perspective is staggering.

Every MP was desperate to chime in, to give their own impassioned speech about those evil Tory racists or the nasty Labour anti-Semites. Watching this pitiful display, you couldn’t help but feel that this was all one big displacement activity. After all, we have a Tory Party that has no answers to the deep social problems the country is facing. And we have an opposition that is equally devoid of ideas, principles or solutions to what ails us.

And so our political class has retreated into its comfort zone – virtue-signalling and throwing the r-word around like confetti. Hot air is all they have left. Rarely have voters been as poorly served as they are right now.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

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Topics Politics UK


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