Diane Abbott snubbed more than 40 times by speaker as she tries to address race row during PMQs

The Commons speaker has come under fire after he failed to call upon Diane Abbott to speak as Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer discussed ‘racist’ comments made about her by a Tory donor.

Ms Abbott has found herself at the centre of the unfolding racism row in the Conservative party after it wasreported a major party donor had made alleged comments about the former Labour MP.

The Hackney MP has now slammed Sir Lindsay Hoyle after he did not call on her to ask a question, despite rising from her seat to catch his eye more than 40 times during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

Diane Abbott has slammed the speaker for his refusal to call on her during PMQs (Parliament TV)
Diane Abbott has slammed the speaker for his refusal to call on her during PMQs (Parliament TV)

Business tycoon Frank Hester – who donated £10m to the party in 2023 and has won £400m worth of public contracts – is alleged to have remarked that the Hackney MP makes you want to “hate all black women” and said “she should be shot”.

The longest-serving black MP previously described Mr Hester’s comments as “frightening”.

The prime minister condemned the comments but has thus far refused to hand back the donation despite repeated calls from opposition parties and some within his own party.

The row took centre stage on Wednesday when Sir Keir asked Mr Sunak: “Is the PM proud to be bankrolled by someone using racist and sexist language?”

But despite focus in the commons on the incident, Ms Abbott has not yet been given an opportunity to ask the prime minister a question.

Ms Abbott, writing on X, said: “I don’t know whose interests the speaker thinks he is serving. But it is not the interests of the Commons or democracy.”

The spokeswoman for the speaker’s office said: “During prime minister’s questions, the speaker must select MPs from either side of the House on an alternating basis for fairness.

“This takes place within a limited timeframe, with the chair prioritising members who are already listed on the order paper. This week – as is often the case – there was not enough time to call all members who wanted to ask a question.”

PMQs is scheduled to run for 30 minutes but it is not uncommon for the speaker to allow PMQs to run for longer to ensure MPs can speak. Some sessions under Sir Lindsay’s predecessor John Bercow surpassed the 50-minute mark.

Mr Hester has admitted making “rude” comments about Ms Abbott but claimed they had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.