Major Tory donor tells BBC he is voting Labour

Major Tory donor tells BBC he is voting Labour

60 minutes agoBy Chris Mason, Political editor, @ChrisMasonBBC • Isabella Allen, Senior Political ProducerWatch: John Caudwell tells the BBC’s Chris Mason he’s voting Labour

A billionaire who gave the Conservatives £500,000 before the last general election has told the BBC he will vote Labour for the first time in his life next month.

John Caudwell, the founder of Phones 4U, described Rishi Sunak as an “absolute dud” and said the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer “just really hits the spot with a lot of issues with me”.

The businessman has been critical of Labour’s plan to charge VAT on private school fees and has said some of Reform UK’s policies “sound sensible”, although he ruled out backing Nigel Farage’s party over its stance on climate change among other things.

He stopped short of saying he would donate money to Labour at this election.

But he added: “The Labour Party in my estimation, as much as I disagree with some of the policies, are absolutely the very best for Britain going forward.

“What I see is a Labour Party committed to GDP growth and the environment.

“Without GDP growth you can’t look after your social services. And without focusing on the environment there won’t be a world to look after.”

Mr Caudwell said he had donated to the Conservatives in 2019 “because I couldn’t possibly stand a Corbyn government, and I am still of exactly the same view there.”

He praised Sir Keir’s attempts to get rid of what he called “the loony Left” which he claimed had focused on “extreme socialist policies”, instead of “creating a wealthy Britain”.

“We can’t tax rich people in order to help the poor because they’ll go off to Monaco and other places, we have to create real genuine wealth.”

He added that “I hope to goodness I am right in my judgement and they make Britain great again.”

The entrepreneur – who the Sunday Times Rich List recently claimed was worth £1.537bn – said “my thoughts on Labour historically were very negative” and “it took a lot of me soul searching” to get to the point of being comfortable with the idea of voting Labour.

John Caudwell has been increasingly critical of the Conservatives in recent months and is particularly outspoken about the prime minister.

“Everything he did within COVID was wrong. He paid people for furlough which was all or nothing. He gave them too much in the wrong way.

“The criticisms that I made of Rishi during his chancellorship, I think were pretty much evidenced in the D Day situation,” which he claimed showed “a complete lack of judgement.”

He said “until a few months ago I was voteless” but he had met Sir Keir and Sir Tony Blair in January, and saw the Labour leader again last Friday after the publication of the party’s manifesto.

He has not given any money to the Labour Party but said “it is quite possible” he would in the future “if I think they have done an amazing job.”

Giving his reaction, Sir Keir said: “I’m delighted that John, someone with such a successful track-record in business, has today thrown his support behind the changed Labour Party that I lead.”

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