Labour has come under scrutiny for accepting donations from a supporter of the Just Stop Oil campaign, but the party defends its position, stating that it does not affect its stance on the campaign group.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, a shadow minister, has emphasized that Dale Vince, a green energy entrepreneur, is a “legitimate person” to receive financial support from. Since 2014, Vince’s company has donated over £1.4 million to the Labour party.
Conservative ministers have called for the donations to be returned, arguing that they legitimize the tactics employed by Just Stop Oil. The environmental group has engaged in protests, including road blockades and disruptions during sporting events, to demand a cessation of new licenses for oil and fossil fuel exploration in the UK.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow international trade secretary, has stated that Labour’s stance on Just Stop Oil is unambiguous. He views the group’s actions as counterproductive and argues that they only serve to generate discussions about public order laws. Thomas-Symonds believes that Dale Vince, as a successful UK-based businessman and founder of Ecotricity, a green energy company, is a legitimate donor to Labour. He adds that Vince’s support for other causes does not influence the party’s views on Just Stop Oil.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer has previously criticized Just Stop Oil protesters, describing them as “arrogant” and “wrong.” He has pledged to introduce stringent penalties for those who engage in road blockades.
In addition to the donations to Labour and Ecotricity, Mr. Vince’s company has also made substantial contributions to Sir Keir, deputy leader Angela Rayner, and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. Furthermore, in the past, the company donated £70,000 to the Liberal Democrats in 2015/16 and £30,000 to the Green Party in 2013.
Dale Vince has dismissed allegations of ties between Labour and Just Stop Oil as exaggerated claims from right-wing media outlets desperate for attention. He confirmed having a phone conversation with Sir Keir, their second interaction, where Just Stop Oil was not discussed. Vince states that he will continue to fund the campaign group even if Labour were to request otherwise.
Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands has called for Labour to return the donations, suggesting that they may have influenced the party’s decision to oppose stricter measures to handle disruptions caused by protesters. Hands imply that Labour has already acquiesced to demands from Just Stop Oil by promising to halt new developments in North Sea oil and gas.
According to reports from the Sunday Times, Sir Keir is expected to announce these plans in the coming month. A Labour source explains that the party opposes granting new licenses for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea. However, they intend to manage existing wells sustainably over the coming decades as part of the UK’s transition into a clean energy superpower. The reports have raised concerns among unions regarding the impact on jobs.
Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite, Labour’s largest union supporter, insists that Sir Keir must develop a comprehensive and well-funded plan for renewable energy that safeguards jobs and communities. She warns against jeopardizing the industry without providing a clear strategy. Gary Smith, the head of the GMB union, has expressed similar concerns, stating that discontinuing North Sea oil developments would harm employment prospects. Industry group Offshore Energies UK asserts that domestic oil and gas production reduces reliance on costlier and less secure imports, and ending new North Sea projects would endanger jobs and result in higher energy costs.