Kemi Badenoch has said there is no reason for the Tories to not take money off a donor she last week accused of making racist comments.

The Business Secretary said the party should keep Frank Hester's £10m despite comments he allegedly made about MP Diane Abbott.

According to the Guardian, at a 2019 meeting, the businessman was alleged to have said: "It's like trying not to be racist but you see Diane Abbott on the TV, and you're just like I hate, you just want to hate all black women because she's there, and I don't hate all black women at all, but I think she should be shot."

He has since apologised for making "rude" comments but claimed his words "had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin".

READ MORE: Minister refuses to confirm new donation from race row businessman

Downing Street initially declined to describe the remarks as racist, with ministers sent out to defend Mr Hester and reject calls for the money to be returned.

No 10 only changed position after Ms Badenoch - who is also the UK Government’s Equalities Minister - said they were racist.

Speaking to the media on Monday morning, she said as Mr Hester had apologised, he should be forgiven.

She said she was “quite surprised” that opposition parties were calling for the Tories to return the money.

“This was something that happened five years ago. He wasn’t talking to Diane Abbott. It wasn’t even really about Diane Abbott. He used her in a reference that was completely unacceptable. He’s apologised for it. I think that it is far more important that we accept the apology,” she told LBC.

“When people apologise, they should be forgiven.”

She said the comments were “in no way reflective of the work that he has been doing while we have taken his money”.

The minister also criticised the media for covering the story, she said it was “one of the reasons why I think the public are fed up with the way the politics is trivialised”.

“We need to get to a point where we stopped chasing people around and looking everywhere for the racism,” she said.

“We are ending up in a spiral where everybody is accusing and counter-accusing around racism. I think we need to move away from these things and actually focus on what matters to people … We’ve been talking about this for well over a week now. This is trivia.”

She said: “What this man may or may not have said five years ago, in private in a casual reference, racist thought the comments as reported were, I’m afraid is not really in the high priorities of how we deal with racism in this country.”

She later told the BBC that the story was “pure media bubble speculation.”

“It is not what the country cares about,” she insisted.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak tells Tories to ‘stick to the plan’ amid reports of plot

During the media round she also warned Tory plotters against trying to oust Rishi Sunak.

Over the weekend, there has been frenzied speculation that he could soon be kicked out of No 10 by his backbenchers.

Multiple reports suggested the party’s factions were coalescing around Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt.

Ms Badenoch, who is also viewed as a future leadership contender, said she and the Prime Minister “work well together” as she sought to play down the rumours about Mr Sunak’s position.

She suggested that “one or two MPs” were behind the Westminster rumours and they should not be allowed to “dominate the news narrative”.

She told BBC Breakfast: “I’m sure if Penny was here, she would be distancing herself from those comments.”

On LBC Radio Ms Badenoch said: “People need to stop messing around and get behind the Prime Minister.

“But I think at this particular time, it is really important that we remember that there are thousands of councillors all around the country who are going to be standing for election in May.

“We need people to focus on what they have been doing to help their local communities and not be obsessed with Westminster psychodrama.”

Ms Badenoch, who ran for the Tory leadership in 2022, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I have made it very clear that Rishi Sunak is the person who is going to lead the country into the election.

“I support him fully.

“I have, as much as possible, made it clear that I am not interested in standing to be prime minister. I have shut down those rumours.”

But she acknowledged “there will always be people who will speculate on your behalf”.