He used to back Just Stop Oil – now he’s pumping millions into Labour

Dale Vince has been out on the campaign trail. The day before he met with i, he was door-knocking in his hometown of Stroud in Gloucestershire. Bristol and Brighton are next on the list.

Given his credentials – a green energy tycoon who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to groups such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion – one might assume he was out to bolster the Green vote in seats where the party hopes to make gains.

But the opposite is true: Vince wants to convince environmentally conscious voters to turn their backs on the Greens and give their vote to Labour, who he believes are in line to become the “greenest Government” the country has ever seen.

“It’s a fact of our electoral system that only Labour or the Tories can win. So I’d say that anybody that has green aspirations… give Labour the benefit of the doubt,” he tells i.

Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, Britain’s first all-renewables energy firm, has previously given sizable donations to a number of political parties, including the Greens, Labour and Liberal Democrats.

He’s also been a major funder of direct climate action groups such as Just Stop Oil, which he supported from the group’s inception in 2022.

But recently, the 62-year-old has focused his support on Labour, donating £1m to the party on 23 May, the day after the general election was called.

It brings the total sum he has donated to the party to about £5m, making him one of Labour’s largest donors.

Vince, a former New Age traveller who is said to be worth £100m, has been dubbed “Britain’s richest hippy”.

In the 1980s, he was part of a group of activists that occupied RAF Molesworth after the Cambridgeshire air base was chosen to house US nuclear missiles.

The idea for Ecotricity came after the success of a project he set up at Glastonbury, where he sold phone calls to festival-goers using mobiles charged via a windmill.

But despite his activist past, Vince recently announced that his is no longer providing funding to Just Stop Oil, arguing that the group’s tactics were fuelling “culture war” arguments instead of bringing about change.

“Voting for Labour is a vote to stop oil,” he says. “The only way we can stop oil, actually the new drilling of oil, is by stopping the Tories.”

Labour has taken flak over Vince’s donations, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accusing the party of being beholden to “eco-zealots”. He said: “I think it’s really unfortunate when the prime minister of our country just starts name calling like he’s in the playground.”

Vince says if they’re playing that game, then the Prime Minister is a “fossil fool”.

Vince claims to not have had any direct influence on Labour’s policies, and says he has only spoken to Sir Keir Starmer two or three times and “not in depth about these things”. (Perhaps the pair bonded over football; Vince is the owner of Forest Green Rovers, the world’s first all-vegan football club.)

Unsurprisingly for the chief executive of a renewable energy firm, Vince is a big advocate of Labour’s flagship green policy to decarbonise electricity by 2030.

When asked whether Labour’s 2030 target is achievable – many experts say it isn’t – Vince concedes that it is “ambitious”.

“But I’d rather have an ambitious target and miss it by 10 per cent,” he says.

Last year, about 40 per cent of the grid’s electricity was generated by renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Labour will have to significantly ramp up these energy sources during the next five years if it to meet its target, as well as solving grid capacity issues, which have left some renewable projects waiting over a decade to secure connections.

Vince argues if Labour does the “right things”, such as changing planning rules and increasing grid capacity, then the 2030 target can be met.

But surely Labour’s climate ambitions have been jeopardised by its decision to slash its green budget from £28bn per year to £15bn (of which just £4.7bn is new money not already committed by the previous government)?

Vince insists Labour’s funding U-turn has “never concerned” him. He argues that it is a “Tory narrative” that the green transition requires a lot of public funding, and that “arbitrary numbers” do not matter.

Labour insists it will still be able to meet its 2030 target thanks to the creation of Great British Energy, a publicly owned firm that will work alongside the private sector to invest in green energy and grid upgrades.

Vince says GB Energy “could be” the game-changer that Labour is touting it to be. “The key is what’s done with it,” he adds.

So far, Labour have provided scant detail on what projects GB Energy will invest in, or how it plans to transform the UK’s energy system with GB Energy’s five-year budget of £8.7bn (a modest amount in the world of energy infrastructure).

Speaking the day before Labour publishes its manifesto, Vince expresses hope that the document will provide “the detail I think we’ve all been waiting for”.

The manifesto ends up containing no new information about the policy. But Vince also insists that he “doesn’t have a lot of question marks” about Labour’s plans.

“I think I’ve just got a lot of hope. I’ve just got a lot of possibility and belief that Labour understands the green economy, the opportunity of green energy, and getting to energy independence,” he says.

Vince backs i‘s manifesto to Save Britain’s Rivers

he used to back just stop oil – now he’s pumping millions into labour

i is calling on all the political parties to sign up to its manifesto to Save Britain’s Rivers

Amid growing public anger at the health hazards from sewage and other pollution – and the widespread destruction of wildlife – i has created a manifesto to reverse the damage to the UK’s waterways.

It includes policies to improve river health, cut sewage spills, implement a tougher watchdog, create more clean bathing sites and minimise the impact of farming.

With the Liberal Democrats and Green Party already pledging their support, Vince is also urging Labour to get behind the plan.

“I don’t see why it shouldn’t, because it is a simple, strong manifesto that we need,” he said. “Post the election, I’m hoping that we’ll see Labour clamp down on the water companies.

“My personal favourite policy is don’t allow any more dividends until they fix the problem. Make them spend that money on fixing the problem. That’s what we should have done in the first place.”

When asked which political party had the strongest message on water pollution, Mr Dale said he has not “really seen a lot of strength from anybody”.

“I’d say probably the ‘i news party’ has got the strongest message,” he joked.

Alongside the net-zero transition, Vince is also passionate about reversing the decline of Britain’s nature, and has backed i’s five-point manifesto to Save Britain’s Rivers.

He urged Labour to sign up to the pledge, but that admits he hasn’t “seen a lot of strength” from any of the parties on the issue.

But Vince is optimistic that Labour will be more bullish on the issue if it gets into power: “I’m hoping that we’ll see Labour clamp down on the water companies.”

Vince is clearly putting a lot of faith – and money – into Labour. What is his overriding message to voters on the fence?

“Lend them your vote this election and then judge them at the next election to see what they’ve actually done. I believe that they will do a great deal, but we have to give them the chance. The alternative is unthinkable.”

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