Just Stop Oil: Labour donor Dale Vince attends first protest by environmental campaign group in person
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Businessman Dale Vince - whose donations to Labour have been scrutinised because of his links to the controversial environmental campaign group Just Stop Oil - has attended one of its protests in person for the first time.
He joined demonstrators on a slow-walk protest along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square in central London today (8 June). Labour has criticised the group’s tactics of stopping traffic and disrupting major sporting events - but says Vince is a “perfectly legitimate person” to collect donations from regardless.
Who is Dale Vince?
Vince is an entrepreneur who set up Ecotricity - which sells green energy (generated largely by wind power) to around 200,000 homes and businesses. He’s also chairman of the League Two football club Forest Green Rovers, the first in the world to be declared carbon-neutral.
He’s been a regular donor to Labour over the last decade. Electoral Commission records show since 2013, Ecotricity has given the party more than £1.3 million.
Because of his environmentally-friendly credentials, Vince is also a supporter of - and donor to - Just Stop Oil, which wants the government to end all new fossil fuel licensing and production. Last week, he pledged to double any public donations received by the climate action group over a 48-hour period. In that time, Just Stop Oil collected more than £170,000.
It’s staged a number of high-profile demonstrations in recent months, forcing stoppages at the World Snooker Championship and rugby union’s Premiership final at Twickenham. Attending today’s march through central London, Vince said: “I’m here to support the incredibly brave people of Just Stop Oil. They put themselves and their liberty on the line”.
“I support them in other ways, in the media and with donations, but I thought I would do more”.
What’s the issue?
The Conservative party chairman Greg Hands has asked Labour to return Vince’s donations - because of “concern” about their potential influence on leader Sir Keir Starmer’s policies.
In a recent letter to the party chair Anneliese Dodds, Hands highlighted how Labour voted against new laws giving police more powers to crack down on protesters. He also suggested the party had “caved in” to Just Stop Oil’s demands and announced a halt to new gas, oil and coal projects.
Vince said attempts to link the two were a “mudslinging exercise” by right-wing newspapers and Conservative MPs, “trying to create some smoke and pretend there’s a fire”.
He also defended the protesters’ disruptive tactics, saying they were “putting their livelihoods on the line” and “getting arrested” for “trying to bring attention to the crazy notion of licensing new oil and gas in the North Sea.
How has Labour responded?
Starmer has previously criticised Just Stop Oil, claiming it was “wrong” for the group’s members to block roads and potentially delay ambulance journeys. He also told LBC it was “arrogant of those gluing themselves to roads to think they’re the only people who’ve got the answer to this”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today last month, Shadow International Trade Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said that proved Vince’s support of Just Stop Oil did not “affect our views as a Labour party” on the protesters.
He added that Vince was a “perfectly legitimate person” to take money from - and reiterated that Just Stop Oil’s actions were “entirely counterproductive”.