Billionaire Donor John Caudwell Hesitates Between Conservative Disillusionment and Labour Uncertainty

Caudwell, who made £1.5 billion from selling his mobile phone retailer Phones 4u in 2006, remains cautious about Labour’s plans.

Billionaire John Caudwell, a major donor to the Conservative Party before the 2019 national election, has voiced his disillusionment with the party’s 14 years in power and is hesitant to support them again.

However, he’s also uncertain about backing Labour.

With an early general election set for July 4, both the Conservatives and Labour are vigorously courting donors.

Caudwell, who made £1.5 billion from selling his mobile phone retailer Phones 4u in 2006, remains cautious about Labour’s plans.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has shifted the party to a centrist stance since 2020, away from its previous leftist agenda.

Polls suggest Labour is poised for a significant victory in the upcoming election.

Despite this, wealthy donors like Caudwell remain skeptical about Labour’s ability to address economic growth, modernize infrastructure, and protect public services.

“Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is untested … and that’s a risk,” Caudwell said, expressing his desire for more concrete plans from Starmer and his potential cabinet.

Reflecting on the Conservatives’ past performance, he noted, “What we do know is the Tories have not done us very well over the last 14 years.

“We just don’t know whether Labour would do better.”

Many voters share Caudwell’s uncertainty. An April YouGov survey revealed that 50% of respondents were unclear about Labour’s stance under Starmer. Labour did not comment on this story.

Historically, Labour received most of its funding from unions.

However, Reuters analysis shows that since 2020, Labour has garnered around £24 million in private donations, a record second only to the party’s 2005-2010 period.

Major contributors include David Sainsbury, his daughter Francesca Perrin, and Gary Lubner, with over £9 million from new donors, some of whom are former Conservative supporters attracted by Labour’s promise of business stability.

Despite this, the Conservatives still lead in funding, with £104.3 million compared to Labour’s £90.2 million.

A Conservative donor who chose to remain anonymous expressed no intention to donate to either party this cycle, fearing higher taxes under Labour.

Caudwell previously donated £500,000 to the Conservatives, fearing Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Starmer has since sought to align Labour with business interests, reminiscent of Tony Blair’s leadership. However, business leaders remain wary of Starmer’s ability to foster investment and growth.

Caudwell hopes Labour will adopt policies that attract green technology companies to Britain, including tax breaks.

While Starmer showed interest, Caudwell remains on the fence, waiting for Labour’s manifesto.

“If Labour did more to make Britain more attractive economically, I’d be happy to donate,” Caudwell said.

He plans to reengage with Starmer post-election to push for these policies. Labour’s and the Conservatives’ manifestos are expected soon.