Keir Starmer was last night under fire over donations to Labour from a key Just Stop Oil funder.
The party was challenged to distance itself from the eco-zealots by returning the £1.5million given to it by green energy boss Dale Vince.
He has helped bankroll the controversial climate activist group since its inception just over a year ago.
In recent weeks JSO radicals have waged a high-profile campaign disrupting sporting and other prominent events while causing misery to the public with a series of go-slow marches.
And at the weekend it was revealed Labour plans to ban future North Sea oil and gas drilling should it win the general election – which mirrors the main demand of Just Stop Oil.
Keir Starmer (pictured in Kirkcaldy last Thursday) is under fire over donations to Labour
Green energy boss Dale Vince has helped bankroll the climate activist group Just Stop Oil
Mr Vince, boss of green energy firm Ecotricity, has made his donations over several years, including £500,000 to the party last October. The former New Age traveller, 61, has also made donations to Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner.
Former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said last night: 'It shows who Labour's paymasters are – they are fanatics who want us to be cold and poor.
'I don't think Labour should take money from people who disrupt the lives of the majority of British people going lawfully about their business.'
Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused Sir Keir of being 'in bed with the donors' after Labour repeatedly opposed the Public Order Bill which gives police fresh powers to remove protesters.
Sir Keir has condemned the actions of Just Stop Oil, who invaded the Twickenham pitch to disrupt Saturday's Premiership Rugby Union final just days after attacking a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. He has denied Mr Vince's donations have any impact on policy.
But Tory MP Paul Bristow said: 'Labour are being bankrolled by prominent supporters of Just Stop Oil, so it's no surprise they have caved into the dangerous group's demands.
'They should come clean with the British people. Keir Starmer should either admit he agrees with Just Stop Oil or if he distances himself from their tactics, he should pay back the cash.'
CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW:Demonstrators from Just Stop Oil disrupt the event last Thursday
CHRIS PACKHAM: The TV presenter stands with Just Stop Oil protestors in London last Friday
Tory chairman Greg Hands, who has also called on Labour to return the donations, last night accused Sir Keir of 'legitimising' Just Stop Oil and their stunts.
He said: 'Starmer has no plan to protect our national energy security and has instead taken millions from the same eco-loons who fund groups that want to stop ordinary people getting on and working hard.'
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour's work and pensions spokesman, hinted at the weekend that Sir Keir is on the verge of announcing plans to block new North Sea oil and gas developments.
But Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said it would leave Britain more dependent on Russia for its oil, and The Times quoted an 'influential' Sir Keir ally as describing the plans as 'crackers, reckless, vote-losing stuff'.
Multi-millionaire Mr Vince has said he donated 'tens of thousands of pounds' to launch Just Stop Oil, and gave more cash last November when it had funding problems.
CRUCIBLE THEATRE: The World Snooker Championship in Sheffield was a target on April 17
TWICKENHAM: A protester at the Gallagher Premiership Rugby final on Saturday
He declined to comment on how much he had given to the cause last night but is thought to be one of their richest British backers.
Mr Vince has made donations totalling £1.5million to Labour since 2013, according to the Electoral Commission.
Its data shows Labour accepted £500,000 from Ecotricity last October and £200,000 six months earlier.
The firm also made a £20,000 donation directly to Sir Keir in 2020, and £10,000 to Ms Rayner last October.
Sir Keir said previously: 'He [Mr Vince] knows that nothing he donates to the Labour Party is going to affect my judgment on this. The fact he donates will not make a blind bit of difference to the tough line I take in relation to Just Stop Oil.'
JSO's stunts have included disrupting sports events and carrying out slow marches in London.
Hippy turned eco-tycoon funding the green zealots
PROFILE by Barbara Davies
In his days as a penniless hippy, Dale Vince used to trundle around the country in a big yellow truck.
That was before the lorry driver's son from Norfolk discovered there were fortunes to be made by leaping on to the green energy bandwagon. And leap he did. His wind farm company, Ecotricity Ltd, has made him one of the UK's wealthiest businessmen, worth £100million.
No more life on the road in a rickety converted ambulance for the 61-year-old. Home is now an 18th century crenellated fort with views of the Gloucestershire countryside from where he runs his renewable energy empire.
Dale Vince's company Ecotricity Ltd has made him one of the UK's wealthiest businessmen
It's not hard to understand, then, why the twice-married father-of-three has thrown his weight – and bulging bank account – behind the climate activist group Just Stop Oil whose protests have caused untold disruption across the UK in recent months. Or, more pertinently, why a vast amount of his cash – around £1.5million – might have ended up swelling the coffers of the Labour Party.
For while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer may have publicly condemned Just Stop Oil's tactics as 'wrong' and 'arrogant', he has been more than happy to take the shilling of one of the disruptive group's key benefactors.
Vince is convinced that eco-zealots at Just Stop Oil and the Labour leadership are aligned on climate change and have shared values when it comes to the best methods to tackle it. 'If Labour wins, Just Stop Oil will no longer need to exist,' he declared last month in an interview with talkSPORT radio.
Starmer, we now learn, plans to block all future North Sea oil and gas developments. It's worth noting that he has also vowed to tear up planning rules restricting the development of onshore wind farms. A dream come true, surely, for an eco tycoon who has built his fortune on the back of their spinning sails.
Perhaps he has forgotten the debt of thanks he owes Margaret Thatcher who provided the crucial leg-up he needed when she opened up the electricity market to competition in 1990.
In 2010 Dale Vince became chairman of his local football club, Forest Green Rovers
Vince – who taught himself to make electricity from a rudimentary wind turbine on the roof of his camper van and charged festival-goers at Glastonbury to use it – was then able to launch his own business with the help of a bank loan.
He was given permission to erect a turbine next to his van, then parked up in the village of Nympsfield in Gloucestershire, and connect it to the National Grid. Ecotricity Ltd was founded in 1996 and, by 2017, was providing power from 75 windmills to 117,000 homes.
All this was a far cry from his childhood in Great Yarmouth where his father, David, worked as a lorry driver for a scrap metal merchant before starting his own haulage business.
Vince went to grammar school but hated it, leaving shortly before his 16th birthday with nine O-levels.
His Left-wing credentials also became apparent during his teen years. In 1980 he was part of a group that occupied RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire to protest against the basing of Cruise missiles there. Having picked up an A-level, he began a computer sciences degree, dropping out at 21 and joining the so-called Peace Convoy of around 600 hippies who in the early 1980s roamed the UK in camper vans.
He says that, after seeing his first wind farm in Cornwall in 1991, he decided to 'get into the big stuff'.
In addition to Ecotricity, in 2010 he became chairman of his local football club, Forest Green Rovers. As well as installing the world's first organic pitch, it is now the world's only vegan and carbon-neutral football club. The team strip is made from recycled plastic and coffee grounds.
A member of the Labour Party, he was awarded the OBE in 2004.
Now we can see where Starmer's loyalties REALLY lie
COMMENTARY by Leo McKinstry
Tory grandee Michael Heseltine once described a verbose and vacillating Neil Kinnock as 'not only a windbag but also a windsock'. The description is equally appropriate for the current Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, whose awkward speaking style is matched by his apparent desperation to show solidarity with every fashionable cause.
The trait has been highlighted this week by revelations that since 2014 Starmer's party received donations worth no less than £1.5million from the environmental entrepreneur Dale Vince.
Vince also happens to be a major backer of the green protest group Just Stop Oil, a bunch of self-indulgent attention-seekers who have become increasingly notorious for disruptive antics that have inflicted misery on the ordinary law-abiding members of the public and real damage on our economy.
In recent days, its members have caused mayhem at the Chelsea Flower Show, the Premiership rugby final at Twickenham and the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, as well as bringing traffic to halt in the heart of London with their sit-down or slow-walk protests.
By accepting vast sums of cash from an individual who has helped fund what these protesters get up to – including £20,000 for the management of Starmers's own office – the Opposition leader has sunk to their level.
What makes this saga more troubling is that on Sunday it was reported that a future Labour government will ban any new drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea, exactly the self-destructive approach demanded by Just Stop Oil. Given the erratic unreliability of renewables, Britain's market will be dependent on oil and gas for decades to come, which makes his surrender to the hardline environmental lobby still more disastrous.
Starmer aspires to lead our country, yet on this issue he has exposed himself as economically illiterate. Even one of his allies said at the weekend that this stance on North Sea development is 'crackers, reckless, vote-losing stuff'.
But his folly is compounded by hypocrisy where Just Stop Oil is concerned. Starmer once told LBC radio: 'I am not a fan of that organisation. I think their actions are wrong.' If he really felt like that, why has he allowed his party to be financially linked to the group?
In his opportunism, the Labour leader is fast becoming the Groucho Marx of British politics. 'Here are my principles and if you don't like them, I have others,' said the great American comedian.
Starmer is turning that joke into the hallmark of his leadership. When transgender dogma was the Left-wing flavour of the month he was all for it. In November 2020, he grandly declared that 'trans rights are human rights and your fight is our fight. The Labour Party stands proudly with the trans community'.
He even called for gender self-recognition, the very policy that has torn apart the Scottish Nationalist government in Edinburgh.
Yet he began to retreat when the implications of this ideology grew more apparent, particularly the threat to women's rights. The result is Starmer has ended up tying himself in verbal knots, epitomised by his laughable statement that '99.9 per cent of women don't have a penis'.
Starmer cannot see a noisy Left-wing bandwagon without trying to clamber on board. In June 2020, during the protests that followed the appalling death of George Floyd in the US, he displayed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement by having himself photographed taking the knee alongside his deputy Angela Rayner.
But before long he was distancing himself from BLM, following its calls to defund the police, saying it was 'nonsense' for the organisation to pursue such a path.
Part of Starmer's difficulty stems from the conflict between his Left-wing impulses and his desire for power. Sensible pragmatism is at constant war with his wish to win the cheers of Labour's core, middle-class, woke base.
So he joins in lawyerly protests against the deportation of foreign criminals, then he poses as a tough-minded crime fighter. He campaigns for Jeremy Corbyn to be made prime minister and praises him for 'energising our movement', then orchestrates Corbyn's expulsion from the Parliamentary Labour Party.
He extols freedom of movement, then presents himself as the architect of tough border controls – just as he was Labour's chief advocate of Remain even after the 2016 vote yet trumpets his commitment to democracy.
Like the Vicar of Bray in the comic opera, his outlook appears only to match the prevailing mood of the moment, never his inner convictions.
He is both for and against the repeal of tuition fees, the removal of jihadi bride Shamima Begum's British citizenship, the legalisation of cannabis, private sector outsourcing in the NHS, and the abolition of universal credit.
But with each new U-turn or flip-flop, Starmer's credibility fades and with each new submission to the woke mob his authority diminishes.