Labour has urged Ben Houchen to turn down any Tory party money that came from Frank Hester ahead of May’s mayoral elections.

Labour candidate for the Tees Valley mayoral election, Chris McEwan, has written to Lord Houchen to “seek assurances” that no money donated by Mr Hester, the party's biggest donor who is at the centre of a race row, will be used to fund his campaign.

And the incumbent Mayor has responded by saying he will not accept any donations from Mr Hester.

Mr Hester allegedly said in 2019 that Diane Abbott, Britain’s longest-serving black MP, made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”, according to the Guardian.

The Northern Echo: Diane Abbott.Diane Abbott. (Image: free)

The Conservative Party has faced calls from opposition parties to hand back £10m the businessman donated last year since the comments came to light.

Now Labour’s candidate for Tees Valley Mayor has urged incumbent Ben Houchen to refuse any money from CCHQ that stems from Hester’s donations to help his campaign efforts.

The pair will ramp up campaigning in the coming weeks ahead of voting on May 2.

In a public letter to the current mayor, McEwan wrote: “Mr Hester is reported to have said that he wanted to shoot an elected Member of Parliament. This falls well below the standard of behaviour the residents of the Tees Valley expect and it is right that no party of government uses funds donated by this man.

The Northern Echo: Chris McEwan, Labour's candidate for Tees Valley Mayor.Chris McEwan, Labour's candidate for Tees Valley Mayor. (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

“While - in good faith - we assume that the Conservative Party was not aware of Mr Hester’s views at the time of receiving these donations, it is only right that you and your party take these new revelations into account seriously. Yet, Rishi Sunak has refused to return the money.

“This now means it is your responsibility to refuse support from your party if it is funded by Frank Hester’s money.

“Accepting and using that money can only be treated as an implicit condoning and overlooking of his deeply disturbing comments and the way he has run his business.”

Responding to a request for a comment from The Northern Echo, Mr Houchen said: “I have never received, nor will I accept, donations from Frank Hester.”

The Northern Echo: Lord Houchen.Lord Houchen. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

Mr Hester donated £10m to the Conservative party last year and according to reports may have donated another £5m yet to be confirmed on Electoral Commission records.

The Northern Echo: Frank Hester OBE speaking at a Commonwealth Business Forum event in Kigali, Rwanda in 2022.Frank Hester OBE speaking at a Commonwealth Business Forum event in Kigali, Rwanda in 2022. (Image: free)

Rishi Sunak has so far resisted calls for his party to hand back the funds.

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On Sunday (March 17) morning Transport Secretary Mark Harper refused to say whether his party may take more funds from the healthcare tycoon.

Mr Hester apologised for what he called “rude” comments he admitted making about Diane Abbott but claimed they “had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

The Prime Minister condemned the comments as “racist” last week.