Electoral Commission records show bosses and companies are donating to Labor for the first time as the party seeks to build credibility with its funds and the business community ahead of the next general election.
These include the family behind River Island and the heads of industrial, investment and media companies and businessmen who previously donated to the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.
Labour, which still relies heavily on unions for large regular donations, has launched a lucrative offensive to woo business after years in the wilderness under Jeremy Corbyn. The party has been buoyed by a dramatic lead in the polls following Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised in recent years from business donors who have not supported the party, according to records from the commission, which was set up in 2001.
These include River Island chairman Clive Lewis and his family’s investment vehicle Blue Coast Capital. Lewis, 66, donated £100,000 to the Labor Party in August.
Fred Storey, 66, chief executive of Storey Homes, a housebuilder based in Carlisle who supported the Brexit campaign, also donated £100,000 in September. His company supported local Conservative MP John Stevenson with a small non-cash donation five years ago, and George Osborne visited the company’s new head office during the 2015 general election campaign.
Gary Lubner, 63, the outgoing chief executive of Belron, a vehicle glass repair and replacement group based in Egham, Surrey that owns the AutoGlass brand, donated £100,000 in April. This was followed in June by a £42,000 donation to pay for the salary of a staff member in the office of shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.
Richard Flint, former chief executive of Sky Bet and Paddy Power, a non-executive director of Flutter Entertainment and Betfair’s FTSE 100 owner, donated £35,000 last year, including £10,000 to Reeves. They are believed to be the first significant donations that Flint made to Labour. He previously donated £5,000 to the Lib Dems in Yorkshire in 2019.
Matthew Slotover, 53, co-founder of media and events company Freeze, donated £50,000 in April and Wayne McArdle, 64, chairman of Conduit Capital, a London-based investment manager, donated £10,000 in July.
All donations were made in a personal capacity.
The Labor leadership hosted a business conference this month at Canary Wharf, the financial hub of London’s Docklands, attended by senior business figures including John Allen, chairman of Tesco and Barrett Developments, who has spoken out on the prospect of a Labor government, and Amanda Blanc, chief executive of insurer Aviva.
Kasim Coote, chief executive of Novo Holdings, a life sciences investor who moderated a panel at the conference alongside Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds, has donated £25,000 to the party this year. He had given the same amount to the Conservative Party in 2008.
Labor also received £100,000 from Jill Whitehouse, a businesswoman, and her husband, Gareth Quarry, an entrepreneur and long-standing director of legal recruitment consultants SSQ and a former Conservative donor. Quarry, 63, revealed in The Times in October that he was lashing out at Labor in opposition to the “enthusiastic” running of the Tory party.
Other companies that have recently donated to Labor include Pod Property Group, a Warrington-based property development company founded by 41-year-old Shahzad Khan. The company donated £10,000 to the party in March, the same month it sponsored Labour’s North-West gala dinner, which was attended by party leader Sir Keir Starmer and former footballer and TV pundit Gary Neville.
Labor has also received support from previous business donors who opposed Corbyn. W Marketing, a communications company based in Durham co-owned by W Series motor racing championship chairman Sean Wadsworth, gave £50,000 in March, having already donated £50,000 in June last year. Wadsworth, 51, donated to Owen Smith’s Labor leadership campaign against Corbyn in 2016 and to the Labor Together movement in 2019.
Labor recently appointed media mogul Lord Alli as its general election fundraising chair. Lord Levy, Sir Tony Blair’s former fundraiser, has donated a total of £25,000 this year.
Coote, 57, said Labor under Starmer had “demonstrated an understanding of the challenges facing the UK, taking the time to listen to business and develop an industrial policy strategy with a focus on getting the UK back to growth”. Key’s”.
Quarry said: “In contrast to the devastating uncertainty of the past 12 years, a Labor government’s industrial strategy, the Green Prosperity Plan, replacing business rates with a proper form of commercial property taxation, inspires confidence and will provide the stability and certainty that I need. It is up to the entrepreneur to decide where to invest.”
A Labor spokeswoman said: “Donors are coming back to Labor because they can see that we are a changed party that is serious about joining government and building a fairer, greener, more dynamic Britain.”
Commission figures released this month show the party matched the Conservatives for donations in the third quarter this year. Both sides raised around £2.8 million from July to September, a period that spanned the fall of Boris Johnson and the rise of the truce.
Labor still depends on cash from the largest trade unions. It received over £725,000 from Unite, almost £300,000 from GMB and almost £200,000 from Unison.