In the News

The Hester case and funding of UK political parties

Mike McCartney

15th June 2024

More concerns about a big donor to the Conservative Party

This week there have been further calls for the Conservative Party to return millions of pounds to Frank Hester, following new evidence from some of his employees about inappropriate language he made have used. While Hester may not have done anything illegal, and no one is claiming that party funding rules have been reached, it does raise questions about parties can be said to promote democracy .

This is the link to the front page article from the Guardian.

Questions based on the article

1. Why is the Conservative party facing questions over its decision to keep donations from Frank Hester?
2. How did former employees describe Frank Hester's behavior towards race and religion in the workplace?
3. What impact did Rishi Sunak's acceptance of further donations from Frank Hester have on the situation?
4. How did Frank Hester allegedly imitate people of Chinese descent while at TPP's headquarters in Leeds?
5. What were some of the derogatory terms or actions used by Frank Hester towards individuals of different ethnic backgrounds, as reported by former employees?
6. How did Frank Hester justify his comments about Diane Abbott, and what was the response from the Conservative party?
7. What ethical concerns are raised by the allegations against Frank Hester and the Conservative party?

Correct answers

1. The Conservative party is facing questions over its decision to keep more than £15m donated by Frank Hester due to fresh allegations made by former employees regarding his behavior.
2. Former employees described Frank Hester's behavior as making racist remarks, referring to a staff member as the "token Muslim", imitating people of Chinese descent, and commenting on an individual's attractiveness based on their race.
3. Rishi Sunak faced pressure after accepting a further £5m donation from Frank Hester through his healthcare tech company, despite previous allegations and criticisms.
4. Frank Hester allegedly imitated people of Chinese descent by using a mocking accent and squinting his eyes to narrow them in front of Chinese colleagues at TPP's headquarters in Leeds.
5. Some of the derogatory terms/actions used by Frank Hester included referring to one worker as the "token Muslim", asking for "brown faces" to go on a work trip to India, and aligning people to projects based solely on skin colour.
6. Frank Hester justified his comments about Diane Abbott by apologizing for past remarks but denied they were motivated by racism or misogyny. The Conservative party considered the matter "resolved" as he had apologized previously.
7. The allegations against Frank Hester raise ethical concerns about workplace discrimination, racial insensitivity, and the acceptance of donations by political parties with ties to controversial figures.

There is a further article in the same paper, which is a treasure trove of info on the sources of income for UK parties. This is definitely one to cut out and keep for future reference for students and teachers of Politics. In the run up to a past paper question on party funding, it is good prep to carry out a low stakes quiz. One has been prepared for you below...

1. What does the passage suggest about the nature of the Conservative party's largest ever donor for an election campaign?
A. The donor made controversial comments about a prominent Labour politician.
B. The donor is a healthcare technology entrepreneur with an estimated worth of £371 million.
C. The donor is a new megadonor who has not given to the party before.
D. The donor is a long-standing supporter of the Conservative party.

2. Which of the following details about Bassim Haidar is mentioned in the passage?
A. He is a Nigerian-born Lebanese-Irish national and IT billionaire.
B. He has given over £1 million to the Conservative party.
C. He recently said he was leaving London due to non-dom tax changes.
D. All of the above

3. According to the passage, what is the significance of David Sainsbury's donations to the Labour party?
A. He is a Labour peer who has donated £5 million to the party under Keir Starmer.
B. He previously donated to the Labour party under Tony Blair and served as a science minister.
C. He contributed £8 million to the Liberal Democrats during the Jeremy Corbyn era.
D. All of the above

4. Which of the following trade unions is specifically mentioned as contributing around £1 million per year to the Labour party?
A. Unite
C. Unison
D. All of the above

5. What detail is provided about Dale Vince's donations to the Labour party?
A. He is the founder of gas and electricity supplier Ecotricity.
B. He has given at least £4 million to the party since 2014.
C. His donations have caused controversy as he has also bankrolled Just Stop Oil.
D. Both B and C

6. Which of the following individuals is described as a "hedge fund supremo" who has contributed almost £5 million in donations over the last decade to Labour, the thinktank Labour Together, and individual MPs?
A. Gary Lubner
B. Dale Vince
C. David Sainsbury
D. Martin Taylor

7. According to the passage, which firm is described as having given almost £1 million to the Conservative party until 2022, but whose founder recently appeared at a Labour event saying he was now supporting Keir Starmer's party?
A. Westcombe Homes
B. Thakeham Homes
C. Flowidea
D. Medannex

Correct answers:

1. A
2. D
3. D
4. D
5. D
6. D
7. B

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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