Lord David Sainsbury, former chair of the eponymous supermarket chain, has given £2mn to Labour in a big boost for Britain’s main opposition party as it gears up for the next general election.

The donation is a coup for Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, whose party is currently about 20 percentage points ahead of the Conservatives in opinion polls.

It came as Luciana Berger, a Jewish former MP who left Labour after a spate of anti-Semitic incidents under the then “hard left” party leader Jeremy Corbyn, announced she had rejoined.

Starmer is courting business people for endorsements and donations as part of efforts to shift Labour to the political centre ground after the failed lurch to the left under Corbyn.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville was one of the biggest donors to Labour when Tony Blair was party leader and also served as science minister in his government.

The 82-year-old peer said he wanted to help Labour financially because he did not believe elections should be decided by which party could raise the most money.

“I believe that Keir Starmer has the leadership skills and ability to deal with the economy difficulties we currently face,” said Sainsbury. “He also wants to reunite the country around an agenda of economic growth and social justice, which is one I strongly support.”

Sainsbury gave millions of pounds to Labour when it was in government but distanced himself from the party as it shifted to the left in opposition after losing the 2010 election.

His last donation to Labour was a £2mn gift in 2016, when he also gave £2mn to the Liberal Democrats, ringfencing both sums for their campaigns for the Remain side in the EU referendum that year. At the same time he gave nearly £4mn to Britain Stronger In Europe, an anti-Brexit campaign.

He went on to give £8mn to the Lib Dems in the run-up to the 2019 election, in what was the largest one-off political donation in UK history.

Sainsbury is a controversial figure with Labour’s leftwing MPs. John McDonnell, shadow chancellor under Corbyn, has previously said the peer should be thrown out of the party for funding the Lib Dems.

Fran Perrin, Lord Sainsbury’s daughter, was one of Labour’s biggest donors last year, giving £500,000 to the party.

Meanwhile Berger, the former MP for Liverpool Wavertree, said Labour had “turned a significant corner” under Starmer’s leadership.

She was one of several Labour MPs who quit the party in 2019 in protest at its handling of antisemitism allegations by some members.

After leaving Berger joined Change UK, a new political party formed by other former Labour and Conservative MPs, but it failed to take off. She later stood unsuccessfully as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate at the 2019 election.

“I’m pleased to be returning to my political home,” said Berger on Sunday.

Starmer said his “test for change” with Labour after becoming leader was whether those who had quit in 2019 would return to the party.


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