Westminster Accounts: Labour and Starmer have accepted thousands from major Just Stop Oil donor

Sir Keir Starmer and Labour have accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations from a wealthy climate activist who has also given money to Just Stop Oil, a group condemned by the party.

Ecotricity, a company founded by Dale Vince, gave more than £20,000 to Sir Keir Starmer during Labour's 2020 leadership contest.

Since the last election, the firm has given £360,000 to the party. Last October, a further £10,000 was donated to deputy leader Angela Rayner.

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Mr Vince, the chairman of Forest Green Rovers football club, is also one of the biggest backers of Just Stop Oil, a campaign group whose protesters have carried out a series of stunts, including gluing themselves to roads and throwing a can of soup over a painting by Vincent van Gogh, to rally against the use of fossil fuels.

Sir Keir has previously condemned Just Stop Oil activists, saying they were "wrong" and "arrogant", while shadow justice secretary Steve Reed has labelled the group "eco-zealots" and called for a "clamp down on their disruptive nonsense".

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Vince confirmed he provided the protest group with "tens of thousands" of pounds to get started and gave them an additional lifeline in November when their funding ran out.

He said he had also given money to Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and Sea Shepherd because he thought it was important to donate to direct action groups.

Referring to Just Stop Oil, he said: "I understand why they do what they do. It's what they have in their power to do.

"Whereas big business has different powers to pursue its agenda, and we have no real answer to that except sometimes to take to the streets."

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Mr Vince did say, however, that he sometimes had issues with their tactics.

"I have disagreements with them from time to time," he said. "When they were smashing bank windows I did say publicly I didn't think it was the right thing to do."

Mr Vince added that although people had mixed views on the disruption that Just Stop Oil had caused, "we've reached a point where taking to the streets is the only power we've got".

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"We've just given permission to a new coal mine in the teeth of climate crisis," he said. "What are we to think and do about that?"

Donations to the Labour Party, meanwhile, were intended to advance a progressive political agenda, Mr Vince said.

The entrepreneur said he gave money to Labour in order "to help them win, to help them into government so they have the chance to deliver their agenda, which is my agenda, social justice and a green economy".

Founded by Mr Vince in 1995, Ecotricity now supplies energy to about 200,000 homes and businesses in the UK. The company employs more than 800 people.

He said he has only spoken to Sir Keir on two occasions and only met him once, despite the £20,000 donation.

"I'm a particular fan of his, the way he goes about things and the things he says. I think he'd be a great prime minister," he said.

Back in October, during a phone-in on LBC, Sir Keir dismissed the actions of Just Stop Oil activists as "wrong" and said he would continue with Conservative plans for stiff sentences for climate protesters who block roads.

"I think it's arrogant of those gluing themselves to the road to think they're the only people that have got the answer to this. They haven't got the answer."