Welsh supermarket boss and ex-Tory donor switches backing to Labour
The executive chairman of the Welsh Supermarket chain Iceland, has given his backing to Labour, saying the party was the “right choice” for business and voters.
Richard Walker, the executive chairman of the Deeside-based frozen food chain, and a former Tory donor, quit the Conservative party last October in a blow to Rishi Sunak.
Now Mr Walker has switched his support to Sir Keir Starmer’s party, accusing the Tories of having “failed the nation”.
Writing in The Guardian, he said: “Labour is the right choice for the communities across the country where Iceland operates – and the right choice for everyone in business who wants to see this country grow and prosper.”
Mr Walker, who had previously sought to become a Tory parliamentary candidate, said it was the Conservative party rather than him that had changed.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think they have steadily changed and certainly when I was trying to become a candidate, I was told to pipe down on issues that really matter to me, like the alarming rise of food banks, by very senior people within the party.”
He added: “I think the Conservatives have failed the nation. They’ve drifted badly out of touch with people like my customers and they’re drifting further and further to the right.
“What’s interesting is that my values and principles haven’t changed, and, whilst the Conservatives have moved away from me, Labour has steadily moved towards the centrist pragmatic views that I’ve long held.”
The Iceland chairman used the Guardian article to praise Sir Keir for having “transformed” his party in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and said the Labour leader understands pressures facing households.
Sir Keir, Mr Walker wrote, “demonstrates a compassion and concern for the less fortunate that contrasts very favourably with the attitude of most of his opponents”.
“He absolutely gets it when I talk to him about the way that the cost-of-living crisis has put unbearable strain on the finances of so many of my customers and their families, and the urgent need for a government that does everything in its power to ease their burden.”
While Mr Walker said he would be supporting Labour at the next general election, he said he was not becoming a party member.
The Labour leader, who is set to visit a branch of Iceland later to meet staff and shoppers, welcomed the endorsement.
He said: “The work that he and his colleagues at Iceland have done to help customers through the cost-of-living crisis has been commendable.
“With Labour, shoppers and shop workers will get a fair deal. We’ll tackle the cost-of-living crisis, get Britain’s economy growing again and get our country’s future back.”
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