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Mar 13th, 2024

Conservative Party ‘has a racism problem’ say most Brits, as voters tell party to reject Frank Hester donation

By 38 Degrees team

The Conservative Party has a “problem of racism” amongst its MPs, donors and members, the majority of Brits believe, as they say parties should not keep cash from donors who make racist statements.

In the wake of Guardian reports of comments allegedly made by Conservative donor Frank Hester, the 38 Degrees community leapt into action to demand the businessman be stripped of his OBE. As a community that fights for a more respectful, fairer UK, we wanted to show that these vile comments do not represent us as a country – and if he made them, he should not be allowed to hold one of our highest honours. Within hours, more than 44,000 38 Degrees supporters had added their names.

Next, we wanted to show how widespread the shock and anger was among the public in the wake of these reports, so we commissioned pollsters JL Partners to get the reaction from a representative sample of voters. Their snap poll of 1,001 people found 54% of people thought the party had a problem of racism amongst its donors, 56% that it had a problem of racism amongst its MPs and 55% that it had a problem of racism amongst its members.

Among 2019 Conservative voters, 39% think there is a problem of racism among the party’s MPs, 38% among its members and 38% among its donors.

Just 11% of people (16% of 2019 Conservative voters) believe Rishi Sunak has succeeded in his aim of making the country more united, while only 36% of the public believed that the Conservative Party “takes allegations of racism seriously”.

Meanwhile, most people want to see consequences for the reported remarks. 55% of people (43% of 2019 Conservative voters) agreed with the 44,000+ people who signed our petition calling for the businessman to lose his OBE, in saying he should lose the honour.

More than half (52%) said the Conservative party should not keep the £10m donation – with 73% of these saying it should be handed to a charity working to counter racism, while less than a quarter (24%) thought it should be returned to Mr Hester.

More than 6 in 10 people (64%) believed that “mainstream political parties should not accept donations from people who are found to have made racist or offensive comments, such as Frank Hester’s”, compared to the 36% who agreed with the statement made by Minister Graham Stuart that “we can’t cancel anybody from participation in public life, or indeed donating to parties, because they said something intemperate and wrong in their past”.

Matthew McGregor, CEO at 38 Degrees, said: “To say that the sight of Diane Abbott, a trailblazing MP who has inspired so many with her pioneering fight for gender and racial justice, on television makes you “want to hate all Black women”: that is racist, that is sexist, that is utterly abhorrent. If Frank Hester used those words, the Conservative Party can go some way to show it rejects racism by giving his £10 million straight to charities that fight vile racism like this, and stripping him of his OBE. Anyone shown to have used disgusting, violent words like these can’t be allowed to keep one of our country’s highest honours – and shouldn’t be the kind of person the Conservatives want to fund their election campaign. 

“If donors who make racist statements don’t face real consequences, the Conservative Party is showing us that it can’t deal with racism and sexism in its own ranks. And as other recent headlines show, this isn’t an isolated incident. Rishi Sunak is presiding over a country that is becoming more and more divided, and a party that can’t control racist members or donors – and British voters can clearly see that.”

To see the full polling tables, click here.


Polling was conducted by JL Partners for 38 Degrees on a population of UK adults aged 18+
Fieldwork dates: March 12, 2023, 4pm to 10pm
Sample size: 1,001
Data were weighted by age, sex, region and 2019 General Election Vote.

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