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#AceNewsDesk – Labour has defended accepting donations from a backer of Just Stop Oil, saying it does not affect the party’s views on the campaign group.
Shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds said Dale Vince, a green energy entrepreneur, was a “legitimate person” to take money from.
Mr Vince’s company has donated more than £1.4m to Labour since 2014.
Tory ministers have called for the donations to be returned, arguing it legitimises Just Stop Oil’s tactics.
Protests by the environmental group, which wants the government to halt new licences for the exploration of oil and other fossil fuels in the UK, include blocking roads and disrupting sporting events.
Earlier, demonstrators blocked roads in west London and Parliament Square, where several people were arrested.
Shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said Labour had been “extremely clear on our views on Just Stop Oil”.
“What they are doing is entirely counterproductive and the only debate it’s provoking is about our public order laws,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
However, he said Mr Vince, who founded green energy company Ecotricity and chairs League Two football club Forest Green Rovers, is a “successful businessman here in the UK” and “a perfectly legitimate person to take money from”.
“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,” he added.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has previously described Just Stop Oil protesters as “arrogant” and “wrong” and said his party would introduce strict sentences for those who block roads.
Mr Vince’s company Ecotricity has made several large donations to the Labour party, as well as to leader Sir Keir, deputy leader Angela Rayner and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.
The company also donated £70,000 to the Liberal Democrats in 2015/16 and £30,000 to the Green Party in 2013.
Mr Vince said alleged links between Labour and Just Stop Oil were “a lot of fuss” and being concocted by ring-wing media, who he called “desperate”………….He told the BBC: “I don’t want to harm the cause – Labour’s cause. I don’t think I am either.”
The entrepreneur confirmed he had a telephone call with Sir Keir last week, which was their second conversation.
He said Just Stop Oil had not come up in the conversation but that he would not stop funding the campaign group even if Labour asked him to.
Mr Vince said he would double any donation made to Just Stop Oil in the next 48 hours in response to “right-wing mud slinging”.
Dale Vince says accusations about his Labour Party donations are “an attempt to throw mud at Keir Starmer”
Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands has called for Labour to return the donations, claiming they could have influenced the party’s decision to vote against tougher measures to deal with disruption caused by protesters.
Mr Hands suggested Labour had already “caved into demands” from Just Stop Oil by promising to halt new North Sea oil and gas developments.
According to the Sunday Times, which first reported the proposals, Sir Keir is set to announce the plans next month.
A Labour source told the BBC:
” We are against the granting of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea. They will do nothing to cut bills as the Tories have acknowledged, they undermine our energy security, and would drive a coach and horse through our climate targets.
“But Labour would continue to use existing oil and gas wells over the coming decades and manage them sustainably as we transform the UK into a clean energy superpower.”
The reports prompted concerns from unions about the impact on jobs.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, Labour’s biggest union backer, said Sir Keir had to develop a “serious plan for renewable energy” that protects jobs and communities.
“It is reckless in the extreme to talk about halting this industry without offering a coherent, fully funded plan for jobs,” she added.
“Labour must now be very clear that they will not let workers pay the price for the transition to renewable energy. When it comes to jobs we can’t have jam tomorrow.”
The head of the GMB union, Gary Smith, told the Financial Times that “strangling” the North Sea oil industry would be “bad for jobs” and called on Labour to scrap the plans.
Industry group Offshore Energies UK said domestic production of oil and gas avoided more expensive and less secure foreign imports and that ending new North Sea developments would threaten jobs and increase bills.
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