Keir Starmer became Labour leader with help from a Neath-based property and van hire firm run by a businessman who called the party’s leaders in Wales “third rate”, Nation.Cymru has found.
The favourite from the outset and backed by donations from major trade unions and wealthy businesspeople, Starmer’s campaign was also supported by the seemingly unlikely secondment of a staff member of Crownhawk Properties Ltd, which is run from Siding Terrace Main Road in Skewen.
One of the company’s 32 members of staff was seconded to assist the Holborn and St Pancras MP for the duration of the campaign between February 10 and April 3.
The support valued at £6,521.80 is revealed in the register of MPs’ interests with a note explaining: “The donor was to be repaid but the reimbursement was waived.”
The only other organisation that seconded a member of staff to Starmer’s campaign was the 1.3 million-member strong Unison trade union.
The arrangement seems to be explained by visits made to Neath by Starmer during which he met Crownhawk director Rod Lloyd, who is also the managing director of Low Cost Vans.
Starmer and Lloyd were pictured together with Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris in August 2019.
Starmer then visited the headquarters of Lloyd’s companies on January 30 this year at the start of his campaign with Harris, who he has since appointed as his private parliamentary secretary.
“Hopefully he’ll be the next leader,” said Lloyd in an introduction to staff, a video of which was posted on the company’s Twitter account.
‘Couldn’t make it’
Following Starmer’s election, Lloyd described him as a “compassionate statesman who will want to do his absolute best for the country in these awful times”.
Lloyd is an outspoken entrepreneur best known for taking part in 2016 Channel 4 documentary The Interview, in which he quizzed genuine applicants for a job at Low Cost Vans.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the nature of his business, he was an advocate for the controversial M4 relief road and was highly critical of the Welsh Government’s decision not to go ahead with the scheme.
He said it showed the Labour administration “are a government for Cardiff and not for Wales”, adding that it was “full of third rate politicians who couldn’t make it in Brussels or Westminster”.
Starmer won the highest number of nominations from Welsh MPs with 12, including the new shadow home secretary Nick Thomas Symonds and new shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens.