A former Conservative donor who recently defected to Labour has launched a scathing attack on his former party, saying their response to the allegations about the Tory peer Michelle Mone has only strengthened his determination to help oust them from office.
Gareth Quarry, a businessman who recently gave Labour £50,000, told the Guardian he planned to increase that sum in the coming months, saying the Tories had trashed their reputation and that of the country.
He pointed to the row over the Conservative peer Lady Mone, who announced on Tuesday she was taking leave of absence from the House of Lords after the Guardian revealed she appeared to have received millions from the profits of a PPE company that was given government funding. Labour last night won a vote that will force the government to publish some documents underpinning that contract.
Quarry said: “The Tory response is indefensible. If there is nothing to hide, why are we having to dance this dance to get disclosure? But it fits a pattern – there seems to be a total inability on the part of the Tory party to put their hand up and say we got this wrong.
“The moral standards of the party have been completely trashed over many years.”
He added: “My wife [Jillian Whitehouse] and I both donated £50,000 in the last quarter, and we both intend to increase that. Without question there will be more.”
Mone has previously denied having any relationship with the company PPE Medpro. Her spokesperson said on Tuesday she was taking leave from the Lords “in order to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her”.
Quarry added that he thought the splits in his former party – over everything from Brexit to planning – would keep it out of power for at least a decade. “The running sore in the Tory party is still sore, it is still weeping and until the offending limb has been cut off the Tories are never going to solve their problem,” he said.
“They are unelectable for certainly a decade and maybe longer.”
The Conservatives did not respond to a request to comment.
Quarry is one of a number of Conservative donors who have stopped donating to the party in recent months, contributing to a slump in donations in the most recent quarter.
Figures released on Tuesday by the Electoral Commission showed the party had raised just under £3m between July and September this year – the lowest since mid-2020 and a drop of over 40% from the previous quarter. Conservative sources pointed out that the period included the leadership election to succeed Boris Johnson, during which time both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak both received personal donations of over £400,000.
Labour is hoping to entice more wealthy backers such as Quarry, and is hosting a business conference on Thursday at Canary Wharf, which will be attended by more than 400 business leaders and lobbyists. Among those due to speak at the event are Justin King, the former chief executive of Sainsbury’s, and Amanda Blanc, chief executive of the insurer Aviva.
The data released on Tuesday showed the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, is having some success persuading rich donors to come back to the party after many left during the years when Jeremy Corbyn was leader. One of the biggest individual donations came from Fran Perrin, the daughter of David Sainsbury, the longtime Labour donor who stopped giving under Corbyn.
Quarry, who made his money by building and selling two legal recruitment businesses, said: “I joined Labour because it is a latter-day Blair-type party. If it was still led by its Corbyn wing I would have stopped donating to the Conservatives but I would not have gone to Labour.”
Quarry said other business leaders were considering joining the party, though he would not give any names. However, he said he now regarded Labour as the “party of business” after the turmoil of the last year.
“What do I need in business? I need stability and a level playing field, both domestically and internationally.”
A remain backer, he said he did not expect the UK would be able to rejoin the EU. But he added: “We need a party who can negotiate with the rest of the EU, and for that you have to have the confidence of the people with whom you are dealing.
“The Tories have trashed our reputation with Europe and our reputation for trust.”