major Labour donor has vowed to double all money given to Just Stop Oil for the next 48 hours after senior Conservatives urged Sir Keir Starmer to return the funds the green energy entrepreneur gave to the party.
British businessman Dale Vince told people on Twitter to “make a donation” to the climate activist group in the next 48 hours, adding: “I will double the amount you give”.
He noted: “This is what we did after the right-wing mud slinging…”
The tweet comes amid controversy in the Labour Party over financial support from Mr Vince, who is also a key donor to Just Stop Oil, whose protesters are known for carrying out disruptive stunts such as interupting sporting events and bringing roads to a standstill.
Sir Keir has previously condemned Just Stop Oil activists, describing them as “wrong” and “arrogant” and senior Conservatives, including party chairman Greg Hands, have called on the Labour leader to hand back money given by Mr Vince, arguing it legitimises group’s tactics.
The businessman, who is the founder of green energy firm Ecotricity, has given around £1.5 million to Labour over the past decade, according to filings to the Electoral Commission.
Shadow international secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds defended accepting donations from Mr Vince, insisting it does not affect the party’s views on the campaign group.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have been extremely clear on our views on Just Stop Oil.
“Indeed, Keir Starmer has said of them ‘just go home’ because they are not actually promoting the cause of tackling climate change.
“What they are doing is entirely counterproductive and the only debate it’s provoking is about our public order laws.”
He said Mr Vince, who is also the chairman of League Two football club Forest Green Rovers, is a “successful businessman here in the UK”, adding: “He’s a perfectly legitimate person to take money from.
“If he wishes to give money to other causes that’s up to him, but it can hardly be said that this affects our views as a Labour Party on Just Stop Oil.”
Speaking to the same programme later, Mr Vince said of Just Stop Oil’s disruptive tactics: “Sometimes laws are unjust and when that happens, people have to stand up and do something about it. This climate crisis will be with us for hundreds of years.”
On his donations to Labour, the businessman said: “I think it is a desperate stretch for the right-wing press and Tory MPs actually to be saying there’s a link here, that this money should be given back. The money is not dodgy.”
He noted there is “no link” between the money he donated to Labour and the reports claiming the party is considering blocking new oil and gas exploration if it wins the next election.
Mr Vince also said he talked to Sir Keir “last week on the phone” for the second time and that the two did not discuss the climate activist group.
Writing on Twitter about the businessman’s comments, Mr Hands said: “The plot thickens on Just Stop Oil’s links to Labour, and to Sir Keir Starmer personally.
“Does the former director of public prosecutions (Sir Keir Starmer) agree that ‘some laws are unjust’ (sic) and therefore should be disobeyed? If so, this is very Jeremy Corbyn.”
In a letter to Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds on Sunday, Mr Hands said he was “concerned” about the influence of Mr Vince’s donations, highlighting how Labour voted against legislation to crack down on disruptive protests, adding: “Given these attacks I am calling on you to return these donations.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Just Stop Oil protesters blocked a major road in west London, with one police officer seen dragging a supporter along the ground by his hi-vis vest amid attempts to clear the way.
The group said it had caused “chaos” by staging another of its slow marches along three roads near West Kensington Tube station, including the A4, with a total of 66 supporters taking part by around 8am.
Protesters later moved onto Parliament Square.
An entry on the Metropolitan Police Events Twitter account at 11.43am said: “At 11.16hrs, Section 12 conditions were issued to Just Stop Oil protesters, slowmarching in the road at Parliament Square. By 11.30hrs, they had moved off the road, and traffic was moving. A number of arrests were made.”
Officers have power under the new Public Order Act to make activists move out of the road or face arrest.