Former Labour minister gives Lib Dems £2m

Posted On: 
25th August 2016

A former Labour minister and party donor gave more than £2m to the Lib Dems to help them fight the EU referendum campaign, it has emerged.

Lord Sainbury with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007
PA Images

Lord Sainsbury handed over £2,125,000 to the party in the run-up to the 23 June poll.

He also gave Labour £2,150,000 in the same period - the first time he has donated cash to the party since 2010.

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The supermarket tycoon was made a peer by Tony Blair in 1997 and ploughed more than £10m into the party's coffers.

He was Labour science and innovation minister in the Lords from 1998 until 2006, the year before Mr Blair left office.

It is not known whether he is still a Labour member, which if he were could leave him open to disciplinary action for giving financial backing to another party.

He is currently on leave of absence from the House of Lords, but is still listed as a member of the Labour group on Parliament's website.

A statement from Lord Sainsbury said: "During the last two years I have helped put together the Stronger In Europe Campaign, and have provided them with funds. I have also made donations to the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, and a number of other registered bodies. 

"I did so because I believe strongly that coming out of Europe will be damaging to our economy and society, and dangerously so if we come out of the Common Market.

"I am proud of what the Stronger In Europe Campaign did in explaining honestly and clearly the benefits we get from being in Europe and the damage from coming out. 

"I am sorry that we failed to convince the British people as I believe the dangers of Brexit are very real, and I hope that thoughtful and careful leadership by the new Prime Minister will mean that my worst fears are not realised."

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats welcomed the donation.

He said: "Lord Sainsbury has been a major figure in progressive politics over four decades. We are extremely grateful for his practical support, which recognises the phenomenal campaigning abilities of the Liberal Democrats, who in the referendum campaign held 1,000 street stalls and were calling up to 100,000 voters a day.

"His help was a recognition that we had the second largest party political campaign for Remain and was a testimony to the hard work of our members.

"It is largely because we got across such a uniquely positive case for Europe that since the referendum over 18,000 people have joined the Liberal Democrats. We have enormous respect for Lord Sainsbury and we see his help in the referendum campaign as a huge endorsement of this party’s campaigning strength and our unequivocally pro-European ideals."

Labour was approached for a comment, but had not responded by the time of publication.

The multi-millionaire peer's donation meant that Labour managed to raise more money than the Tories between April and June.

In total, Labour raked in nearly £6.2m, compared to the Conservatives' £4.3m.