It is clear to me that Frank Hester’s 2019 comments, as reported, were racist. Diane Abbott and I disagree greatly on most issues, but the idea of linking criticism to her race is appalling. It is never acceptable to conflate someone’s views with the colour of their skin.

I have never met Mr Hester, but I welcome his apology and believe that individuals do deserve second chances. 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. Indeed, we have seen elected officials guilty of this too. This is why there needs to be space for forgiveness where there is contrition.

I agree with the Prime Minister’s recent comments that Mr Hester’s words “were wrong, they were racist, he has rightly apologised for them, and that remorse should be accepted.”

There is no place for any kind of racism in Britain today. I am clear about that. The Government is clear about that. But there should be a place for contrition and forgiveness.


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