Glass repair chief leads Labour to record £13m private donations ahead of election

Autoglass boss Gary Lubner led the charge as he donated £4.5m to the party, having previously pledged to give more to Labour before an election

Zoe Grunewald
Thursday 07 March 2024 21:31 GMT
Labour has been storming ahead of the Conservatives in the polls

The Labour Party bolstered its election war chest by over £13m last year thanks to record private donations.

Autoglass boss Gary Lubner led the charge as he donated £4.5m to the party, having previously pledged to give more to Labour before an election.

Speaking to the Financial Times last year, the South African-born businessman – whose grandparents were Jewish refugees – said he had been appalled by the scale of antisemitism in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and praised Keir Starmer for ridding the party of its “cancer”.

The party is now celebrating its best performing year ever for individual donations as it maintains a 22-point lead ahead of the Tories in polls.

Lubner had previously deserted Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership (PA)

Anneliese Dodds, Labour Party chair, said: “With Keir Starmer’s leadership, the Labour Party is a changed party and donors can see we are serious about delivering for working people with five missions to transform Britain.

“We have received a significant financial boost, with last year being our best on record, but as the Tories gear up for a May election, we will continue to fundraise to meet it.”

Despite senior Conservative officials insisting the country won’t take to the polls until the second half of the year, senior Labour party sources say they are preparing for a May election.

Labour’s shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth made a bet with Sky News’ Kay Burley that there would be election in that month.

He said: “This election is coming in May. I think it is definitely coming in May … the Conservatives are planning for that.”

Now Sir Keir’s party have a war chest to tackle the wealthier Tories – receiving more than £13m in individual and company donations in 2023, with a massive £4.2m in the final quarter of the year alone, according to figures published by the Electoral Commission.

Jonathan Ashworth has made a public bet that the country would go to the polls in May (PA)

British businessman and philanthropist Sir David Sainsbury, former chair of Sainsbury’s and life peer, gave £3m, while his daughter Francesca Perrin was the biggest-donating woman with a £1m gift.

Sir David had been a long-standing Labour donor but deserted the party under Jeremy Corbyn, instead gifting £8m to the Lib Dems. He returned to the fold under Keir Starmer’s leadership.

In 2021, the party received just £1.5m in private donations, and in 2022, £5.9m.

Last year was rivalled only by 2005, when the party raised £10.8m under Tony Blair.

Labour also accepted another £1m from green energy industrialist Dale Vince’s Ecotricity firm in November, according to figures published by the Electoral Commission.

Green energy industrialist Dale Vince has donated £1m to the Labour (PA)

The Conservative Party also had a successful fundraising year, taking in almost £41m in private donations in 2023.

The Tories’ single biggest donation came from the late Lord John Davan Sainsbury – the cousin of Sir David – who gave the party £10m in his will.

In total, Labour received around £31m in cash donations to the central party overall, while the ruling party secured around £48m.

The Liberal Democrats reported around £8m and Reform UK £255,000 in total cash donations for the year.

£200,000 of Reform’s donation came from First Corporate Consultants Ltd, a company owned by prominent climate sceptic and former Tory donor Terence Mordaunt.

The party also accepted £10,000 from financier Crispin Odey in August 2023, around two months after misconduct allegations against him emerged, the figures confirm.

The Conservatives have been approached for comment.

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