Labour donor and green entrepreneur Dale Vince joined a Just Stop Oil protest for the first time on Thursday, saying he “can’t not speak out”.
Mr Vince joined demonstrators on a slow-walk protest along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square in central London as part of JSO’s ongoing campaign against new fossil fuel licences.
He told the PA news agency: “I’m here to support the incredibly brave people of Just Stop Oil. They put themselves and their liberty on the line.
“I support them in other ways, in the media and with donations, but I thought I would do more.”
Mr Vince, the owner of green energy company Ecotricity, is a leading JSO donor, and has also donated almost £1.4 million to the Labour Party since 2014, including £710,000 in 2022.
His involvement with JSO has already caused problems for Sir Keir Starmer, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accusing the Labour leader of allowing “eco-zealots” to write the party’s energy policy just a day before Mr Vince joined the protest in London.
Speaking to reporters during a trip to Washington, Mr Sunak said: “It does appear that these kind of eco-zealots at Just Stop Oil are writing Keir Starmer’s energy policy and, not content with disrupting our summer and cherished sporting events, they are essentially leading us into an energy surrender.
“My view is we should focus on energy security, not weakness and dependency which seems to be the Labour Party’s policy.”
Labour has pledged to stop issuing licences for new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea if it wins the next election, but Sir Keir has also previously described JSO as “arrogant” and “wrong”.
A spokeswoman for the Labour leader’s office said: “Keir has been outspoken in his condemnation of Just Stop Oil who he believes have put lives and livelihoods at risk.
“The idea that they have influenced our policy is for the birds.
“The modern Labour Party doesn’t bow to fringe lobbies or extremists – every position we take and everything we do is firmly focused on providing security and opportunity for hard-working Brits.”
Appearing on LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr, Mr Vince said the Prime Minister’s comments were “a cheap slur” and “a desperate attempt to throw some dirt at Keir Starmer and the Labour Party who are doing so well in the polls”.
He added: “I would say I’ve been funding Labour for more than 10 years. In all of that time I’ve never asked for anything, I’ve always told them I don’t want anything, I just want them to win the election, and I haven’t spoken to Keir or the Labour Party about North Sea or North Sea policy or Just Stop Oil – I just haven’t.”
Asked if he thought his presence on Thursday’s march would help Sir Keir, Mr Vince told PA: “I can’t imagine it will make much difference to Keir Starmer, he’s his own man and so am I.”
He added: “I hope it doesn’t harm (Labour) but I can’t not speak out.”
On Thursday, Mr Vince said: “I spent all week talking to the right-wing media and been criticised by Tory politicians all week for donating.
“I don’t care what they make of this, but I’m sure it will trigger some of them. They don’t really know what goes on, they bring out the same myths every time.”
Four people were arrested on Thursday’s march after they refused to comply with police instructions to leave the road.
Police issued the order to move out of the road once the protesters had reached Trafalgar Square. Most complied but three men and a woman remained in the road and were subsequently arrested.
Mr Vince was among a group of JSO activists who cheered and applauded as the four were led to waiting police vans.
Later, on LBC, he said he would be willing to break some laws to bring attention to the climate crisis.
He said: “I draw the line at any form of violence, for example, but slow-marching down the streets – which is I think about to become illegal, I think that’s going to the Hosue of Lords now – I mean, I would break that law for sure.”