Major Tory donor says he will not back Sunak due to green U-turn ‘madness’

<span>Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA</span>
Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Billionaire John Caudwell, the biggest donor to the Conservative party before the last election, has said he will not back Rishi Sunak after the “madness” of his U-turn on green policies.

Caudwell said he was now thinking about switching to Labour instead.

He told the Sunday Times: “If Rishi sticks to this, would I donate to the Conservative party? Absolutely not. No chance whatsoever with the decisions they are making at the moment.

“Would I switch to Labour? The answer to that is very simple: I will support any party that I believe will do the right thing for Britain going forward.”

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Before the 2019 election, the founder of the now-defunct mobile phone retailer Phones4U, donated £500,000 to the Tories.

But he said he was left “beyond shocked” at Sunak’s announcement, which included delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – pushing it back from 2030 to 2035.

Caudwell, 70, said: “The environmental apocalypse is coming and it’s coming very, very rapidly. I am very worried about the future … [although] it won’t affect me because I’ll be long dead and buried.”

He said he was “horrified” by Sunak’s “depressing” changes, adding that that they move the Conservatives “back a long way”.

“Whatever chance they had of winning the next election, this moves them backwards … it shows inconsistency,” he said. “It shows [a] lack of determination. It’s depressing.”

Related: Watering down the UK’s net zero strategy may backfire for Rishi Sunak

In a comment piece for the Sunday Times, he wrote that the delays to net zero measures were “self-sabotage both environmentally and economically”.

While Caudwell insisted his natural inclination was to believe in conservative values, over the past four years he found himself in the “very, very disappointing position” where the party’s beliefs and action “don’t match up to mine any more”.

The potential switch to Labour stands in stark contrast to his position in June last year when he said in an interview with the Telegraph that he “couldn’t possibly see Keir Starmer as a charismatic leader for the country”.

However, Caudwell insisted he is “flexibly minded”.

If Labour promoted UK growth and the saving of the environment he would have to “consider that very, very closely”, he said.