British businessman Dale Vince is a “perfectly legitimate person” to take money from and his donations to Just Stop Oil do not change Labour’s opposition to the climate activist group’s actions, the shadow international trade secretary has said.
Nick Thomas-Symonds said his party has been “extremely clear on our views on Just Stop Oil” and that Mr Vince is perfectly entitled to “give money to other causes”.
His comments come amid controversy in the Labour Party over donations received from Mr Vince, who is also a key donor to Just Stop Oil, whose protesters are known for carrying out disruptive stunts such as disrupting sporting events and bringing roads to a standstill.
Mr Vince, 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.
Over the weekend, Home Secretary Suella Braverman told the Telegraph Sir Keir was “in bed” with Just Stop Oil donors and Tory party chairman Greg Hands urged Labour to hand back the money donated by Mr Vince.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Thomas-Symonds defended his party’s position, saying: “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.”
“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 on, Mr Vince said he will continue to back Just Stop Oil, explaining: “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, he 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 insisted 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 Just Stop Oil.
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.”