Advertisement
UK markets close in 1 hour 35 minutes
  • FTSE 100

    8,239.67
    +83.95 (+1.03%)
     
  • FTSE 250

    21,199.84
    +132.16 (+0.63%)
     
  • AIM

    785.26
    +1.13 (+0.14%)
     
  • GBP/EUR

    1.1872
    +0.0006 (+0.05%)
     
  • GBP/USD

    1.2919
    +0.0009 (+0.07%)
     
  • Bitcoin GBP

    52,034.34
    +324.81 (+0.63%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,396.40
    -8.93 (-0.64%)
     
  • S&P 500

    5,554.56
    +49.56 (+0.90%)
     
  • DOW

    40,361.19
    +73.66 (+0.18%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    79.31
    -0.82 (-1.02%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    2,394.10
    -5.00 (-0.21%)
     
  • NIKKEI 225

    39,599.00
    -464.79 (-1.16%)
     
  • HANG SENG

    17,635.88
    +218.20 (+1.25%)
     
  • DAX

    18,467.86
    +295.93 (+1.63%)
     
  • CAC 40

    7,650.00
    +115.48 (+1.53%)
     

Starmer’s Labour cashed in £19.5m from just 11 donors – this is who they are

Silhouettes of man and woman with question marks overlaid on their faces behind Keir Starmer
Silhouettes of man and woman with question marks overlaid on their faces behind Keir Starmer

Every political party needs money to pay staff, fund campaigns and run its day-to-day operations, but who and where the money comes from is a matter of considerable public interest.

Donations can be refused, even after they’ve been received. In accepting one, a party implicitly condones a donor’s character, morals and previous behaviour, which can draw criticism. Alternatively, if an individual has been squeaky clean but later goes on to attract controversy, the fact they’re a donor is certain to come up.

Businessman Frank Hester gave millions to the Conservatives, before causing outrage with comments about Labour MP Diane Abbott back in March. The Tories have resisted calls to give the money back.

ADVERTISEMENT

Questions have also been raised about donors to the Liberal Democrats, while Reform donor Zia Yusuf was strongly criticised by the Muslim Council of Britain for comments during the election campaign.

Along with reputational issues, politicians also face questions about what they’re offering donors in return. As recently as April, Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves met with Bloomberg just weeks after it gave Labour £150,000, provoking concerns about “cash for access” to a government-in-waiting.

During the Starmer era, more than one in every £4 recorded came from a trio of major unions, perhaps unsurprisingly.

But another third, some 39 per cent, came from just 11 donors. So just who is funding Keir Starmer’s Labour – and what do they want?

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, passed in 2000, clearly states that donations above £500 must be reported and recorded. They cannot be anonymous and a donor generally needs to be registered in the UK, whether they’re an individual or a business. It’s also an offence to try to circumvent the rules, such as by making repeated donations of £499.

According to the latest figures on the Electoral Commission website, Labour has accepted 1,949 cash donations totalling £53.3m since Sir Keir Starmer became leader in April 2020. As of early July, it had received 39 more, totalling almost £9.3m, but the deadline for accepting these has not yet passed. There is no suggestion any rules have been broken by Labour or these donors.

The figures exclude money from public funds, such as the Electoral Commission, Parliament or HMRC, or any donations not made in cash. They also exclude any made between April 1 and May 29, which the Electoral Commission doesn’t publish until September.

Three major unions contributed £17.7m between them, namely Unison (£6.5m), Unite (£6m) and GMB (£5.2m). This leaves £19.5m from 11 more donors.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: £7.6m

Lord Sainsbury
More than half of Lord Sainsbury's gifts to Labour came during the Blair and Brown years - Richard Gardner/Shutterstock

The great grandson of supermarket pioneers John and Mary Ann, Lord Sainsbury has donated more than £40m to political parties since 2004 – including nearly £16m to Labour.

He reportedly spent millions on additional Labour donations before that as a life peer, and government minister, while in the House of Lords. He also gave £8m to the Lib Dems in 2019, a record at the time that was broken only when his late cousin John left £10m to the Conservatives.

More than half of his gifts to Labour still on record came during the Blair and Brown years, but the till slammed firmly shut a year into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. After a series of left-wing and pro-Remain donations, he returned to the Labour fold with a £2m gift in 2022.

He’s handed over £5.1m during the Starmer years, plus another £2.5m cheque that’s waiting to be accepted after landing on the party’s doormat last month.

A wealthy businessman and staunch Europhile, Lord Sainsbury has not been afraid to unleash his chequebook.

Gary Lubner: £5.9m

Mr Lubner is the former chief executive of glass repair company Belron, a company which includes the brand AutoGlass. Born in South Africa, he moved to the UK in 1988, but didn’t start making political donations until a little over two years ago.

He’s made 17 donations to the Labour party since then, including £900,000 during the last general election campaign.

He currently sits on the board of several non-profit organisations and founded This Day, a charitable foundation aiming to build a fairer future for generations in the UK and South Africa.

Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW): £4.6m

With a membership exceeding 360,000, USDAW exists to organise and represent workers to secure “the best possible terms and conditions” and “provide support and protection at work”.

Although formed in 1947, records show that its first political donation was in 2010. It’s since made 348 more and every single one has gone to the Labour party. Of those, 95 came during Sir Keir’s reign – with £314,000 arriving during the election campaign and ready to be accepted.

USDAW has been involved in a high profile legal wrangle with Tesco over “fire and rehire”, which Labour vowed to outlaw in its manifesto.

Sir Keir addressed the union’s annual conference in April, promising to rejuvenate the high street and level the playing field with online retailers. He also reportedly promised to be a “good friend through thick and thin” to USDAW general secretary Paddy Lillis.

Ecotricity: £3.3m

Dale Vince
Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, has previously funded Just Stop Oil, but gave up last year after declaring further action 'pointless' - Alistair Heap/Alamy Stock Photo

Claiming to be carbon neutral and 100 per cent green, Ecotricity powers more than 200,000 homes across Britain. Last year, it built its first gasmill and is now pumping “green gas”, made from grass, into the National Grid.

However, a recent investigation by openDemocracy claimed that 99 per cent of the company’s gas comes from fossil fuels and cast doubt on its claims of investment in carbon reduction programmes. Ecotricity hit back, saying: “Any suggestion that we do not or will not offset our gas is wrong.”

On its website, the company also says it’s a not-for-dividend company, with every penny put towards new sources of green energy. However, it does also donate money politically. It has made 25 gifts to Labour, to the tune of £4m, with the lion’s share coming during the Starmer years. It’s also made three donations to the Lib Dems, along with two to the Green party.

It was founded by Dale Vince, who still owns it alongside Forest Green Rovers, which he turned into a vegan and carbon neutral football club.

Mr Vince has previously funded Just Stop Oil, but gave up last year after declaring further action “pointless”. He also said the Tories would pursue an “anti-green crusade” if they won the next election.

He has since revealed he’s previously spoken to Labour leaders Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Keir Starmer. He claims he wants to influence policy but not buy access.

Francesca Perrin: £2m

Fran Perrin Indigo Trust
Francesca Perrin donated the largest amount the party has received from a woman - You Tube

Along with her husband, Francesca Perrin is the founder and director of the Indigo Trust, established in 1999. It offers support with flexible grant-making, commissioning research and building partnerships to address systemic injustices.

She also worked as an adviser in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit for both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Following in her family’s footsteps, Lord Sainsbury’s daughter set her own record when she donated £1m to Labour in 2023. It was the largest amount a woman had ever given the party, and doubled her total donations.

All ten of her donations have come during Sir Keir Starmer’s tenure, who she described as “the best chance this country has of renewing our standing in the world” alongside Rachel Reeves.

Martin Taylor: £1.4m

London-born Martin Taylor closed Nevsky Capital, his $1.5bn hedge fund, in 2016 and retired aged just 46. He has since launched Crake Asset Management, which has investments in three US healthcare and insurance firms.

He remained below the radar for a while due to his common name, but has in fact been donating to the Labour party for a number of years, kicking off with a £100,000 gift back in 2012.

He caused a stir for Ed Miliband, who during Prime Minister’s Questions called David Cameron’s Tories “the party of Mayfair hedge funds and Monaco tax avoiders”. Once confirmed as a Labour donor, Mr Taylor’s profession led to allegations of hypocrisy directed at the Labour leader.

After several six-figure gifts to the party, the well ran relatively dry during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but he has donated more than £1m to Labour since then, half of which came during the election campaign.

Crucially, he also gave £95,000 to Sir Keir’s successful campaign for leadership of the party – and donated to Angela Rayner’s deputy leadership campaign as well.

Derek Webb: £560,000

Derek Webb
Over the years, Derek Webb has made regular and relatively small donations to political parties totalling almost £1m - Liam McBurney/PA

The millionaire entrepreneur and poker player made his money in the gambling industry, starting with the invention of table game Three Card Poker. He travelled the US to persuade casinos to introduce it, before returning to sell the game in the UK. He later sold his company, Prime Table Games, in a multi-million pound deal.

Since then, he’s launched the Campaign for Fairer Gambling to attack fixed odds betting terminals, which he described as “the most addictive product in British gambling premises.”

It achieved its aim of shrinking the maximum stake for the machines from £100 to £2, which was enshrined in the 2005 Gambling Act. Last year, he relaunched the campaign in the US to improve gambling policy and reduce harm, which he appears to both fund and take an active role in.

The Guardian also reported that he was expected to make tens of millions after backing successful litigation against the machines’ manufacturer, Scientific Games, which was ordered to pay out $315m in 2018.

Over the years, he’s made regular and relatively small donations to political parties totalling almost £1m. He’s made three £250,000 donations, with one heading to the Lib Dems and two accepted by Sir Keir’s Labour. None seem to have come during the election campaign.

Danny Luhde-Thompson: £530,000

The Cambridge-educated investor is currently a strategic adviser at tech company Quadrature. He’s also a trustee of LTPP, a sustainability charity.

Relatively new to the political donations game, Mr Luhde-Thompson made his first in mid-March this year. He’s made five in total, all to Labour. This includes £250,000 during the election campaign, which is sitting ready to be accepted.

George Hall: £295,000

Little information exists on Mr Hall. He’s only made one donation since recent records began and it arrived at the start of 2022.

Fiona Mactaggart: £250,000

Elected in 1997, Ms Mctaggart represented Slough as its MP for 20 years. After stepping down at the 2017 election, she became chairwoman of women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society the following year, before leaving in 2021.

She made five donations of smaller amounts during the Blair and Brown years, three of which went to the Slough constituency Labour Party. This increased significantly when she donated £250,000 to Labour in June last year.

Transilluminate Limited: £250,000

Owned by artist Brian Clarke, information is scarce about the company that sent £250,000 to Labour in March of this year. This was its only political donation on record made in cash, although it did give £30,000 in kind to David Lammy, now Foreign Secretary, on the same date.