Labour donor Dale Vince vows to double Just Stop Oil donations in next 48 hours

A major Labour donor has vowed to double all money given to Just Stop Oil for the next 48 hours after senior Conservatives urged Sir Keir Starmer to return funds given to the party by the green energy entrepreneur.

British businessman Dale Vince told people on Twitter to "make a donation" to the climate activist group in the next 48 hours, adding: "I will double the amount you give".

He noted: "This is what we did after the right-wing mud slinging…"

The tweet comes amid controversy in the Labour Party over financial support from Mr Vince, who is also a key donor to Just Stop Oil.

The climate activism group has entered its sixth week of causing civic disruption by blocking roads and interrupting major events.

Sir Keir has previously condemned Just Stop Oil activists, describing them as "wrong" and "arrogant", while senior Conservatives, including party chairman Greg Hands, have called on the Labour leader to hand back money given to the party by Mr Vince.

The businessman, who is the founder of green energy firm Ecotricity, has given around £1.5 million to Labour over the past decade, according to filings to the Electoral Commission.

Shadow international secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds defended accepting donations from Mr Vince, insisting it does not affect the party’s views on the campaign group.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "We have been extremely clear on our views on Just Stop Oil.

"Indeed, Keir Starmer has said of them 'just go home' because they are not actually promoting the cause of tackling climate change.

"What they are doing is entirely counterproductive and the only debate it’s provoking is about our public order laws."

He said Mr Vince, who is also the chairman of League Two football club Forest Green Rovers, is a "perfectly legitimate" donor.

"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.

Speaking on the same radio show, Mr Vince said of Just Stop Oil’s disruptive tactics: "Sometimes laws are unjust and when that happens, people have to stand up and do something about it. This climate crisis will be with us for hundreds of years."

On his donations to Labour, the businessman added: "I think it is a desperate stretch for the right-wing press and Tory MPs actually to be saying there’s a link here, that this money should be given back. The money is not dodgy."

He noted there is "no link" between the money he donated to Labour and the reports claiming the party is considering blocking new oil and gas exploration if it wins the next election.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Vince again hit back at suggestions he influenced the opposition party’s policy, saying: "That's not connected to donating to them. I’ve been doing that for years, since Ed Miliband was leader.

"Keir Starmer has already said he’s going to do this, at Davos, so this isn’t a new story. It’s a mudslinging exercise, trying to make a whole lot of fuss about something, trying to create some smoke and pretend there’s a fire.

"It’s fear of the election – the polls are looking pretty bad for the Tories. I think they’re desperate to have something to attack Labour with and this is a really flimsy stretch of an attempt to find some dirt on Labour in terms of funding.

"Labour are meticulous in terms of who they take money from, way more fussy and transparent than the Tory party."

Tory party chairman Greg Hands responded on Twitter to Mr Vince's comments, saying: "The plot thickens on Just Stop Oil’s links to Labour, and to Sir Keir Starmer personally.

"Does the former director of public prosecutions (Sir Keir Starmer) agree that ‘some laws are unjust’ (sic) and therefore should be disobeyed? If so, this is very Jeremy Corbyn."

In a letter to Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds on Sunday, Mr Hands said he was "concerned" about the influence of Mr Vince’s donations, highlighting how Labour voted against legislation to crack down on disruptive protests, adding: "Given these attacks I am calling on you to return these donations."

Earlier on Wednesday, Just Stop Oil protesters blocked a major road in west London, with one police officer seen dragging a supporter along the ground by his hi-vis vest amid attempts to clear the way.

The group said it had caused "chaos" by staging another of its slow marches along three roads near West Kensington Tube station, including the A4, with a total of 66 supporters taking part by around 8am.

Protesters later slow marched in Parliament Square and arrests were made after some refused to leave the road in line with police orders.

Adam Beard, 54, a gardener from Stroud who attended the protest, said of Mr Vince: “I think every person who has got a public profile and stands up for us is good.”

He said Labour need to recognise there is a climate crisis and that "we need to act accordingly".

"It means insulating homes, changing public transport and making that the cheaper and easier option.

"Put massive tax on internal flights rather than giving them subsidies and put those subsidies into trains. All perfectly doable and would actually benefit the vast majority of the population."

Hamish, a 27-year-old protester, said he would like to see Labour stopping new fossil fuel licences.

He said: "I don’t think that is a given – and it kind of feels like it should be.

"Also raise the profile of all the good stuff that is being done, they can talk about that a bit better and more."