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Latest 06 June 2024

Tories pocket another £5m from Frank Hester despite racism scandal

PA Images / Alamy

The disgraced healthtech tycoon has now given the Tories over £15m to grease the wheels of their election machine.

The Tories have accepted more than £5m in additional donations from disgraced healthcare tycoon Frank Hester, according to new donation documents, released today (6 June).

Hester made headlines earlier this year when the Guardian exposed his violent and racist comments about Diane Abbott. It also revealed that his healthtech company, The Phoenix Partnership, has been paid more than £400m by the NHS and other government bodies since 2016. Last year, we found that many of these contracts were awarded in secret.

The latest bung stotalling £5.15m – made through the The Phoenix Partnership – takes his donations to the Tories up to £15m, which cements his status as their biggest ever donor.

“To take a further £5m from Frank Hester, who has made appalling, violent, racist comments, marks the Conservative Party as without shame”, said Jo Maugham, executive director of Good Law Project. “It will unabashedly sell influence to anyone.”

We’ve been asking questions about the nature of the prime minister’s dealings with Frank Hester, but Downing Street claims it isn’t possible to disclose them.

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When we requested the details of Rishi Sunak’s meetings and interactions with his party’s biggest donor, Downing Street said it had no ‘official information’ on any of them. And nothing has ever been disclosed in the prime’s minister’s lists of meetings and visits.  

However, Hester has been more forthcoming about his relationship with Sunak. He said he had been having “long conversations” with the prime minister on AI, while the Guardian reported that he gave Sunak a private tour of The Phoenix Partnership’s headquarters in November. 

Last year, we revealed that Sunak took a £16,000 Hester-funded helicopter ride to a political event in Leeds. 

Under the Ministerial Code, the prime minister is required to disclose any meetings he has with external individuals or organisations. However, Sunak could wriggle out of officially declaring any of his interactions with Frank Hester if he labels them as ‘personal’ or ‘political’ meetings.

We know many donors are shying away from a Tory party they consider a busted flush, but that is no excuse for the prime minister to remain tightlipped over meetings with those still prepared to throw money at his party. Particularly ones making headlines for all the wrong reasons like Frank Hester.