Keir Starmer: Labour on course to win next general election
Sir Keir Starmer’s general election victory hopes have just been buoyed by £5million cash injection.
The donor behind it is Gary Lubner – a 64-year-old business tycoon who, Electoral Commission figures show, had previously given over £200,000 to the Labour Party.
An outspoken critic of the Conservatives, he has claimed Brexit topped a “long list of Tory failures in the last 13 years”.
The vast sum is likely to greatly reduce the funding gap between the two major parties as Sir Keir regains the trust of the business sector.
But who is the Opposition’s new knight in shining armour? Mr Lubner has said he plans to donate the majority of his amassed fortune to charities and to Labour. How did he make his millions and where does his political allegiance stem from?
Born and raised in South Africa, Mr Lubner studied finance at the University of Cape Town before joining US accounting firm Arthur Andersen as a Chartered Accountant in 1981.
He left for the UK towards the tail end of the Eighties and clinched an MBA from London Business School. Soon after graduating in 1991, he joined Belron, an international vehicle glass repair and replacement consortium.
Autoglass is their familiar British brand, but the group also operates as Carglass in Europe and Safelite across the pond. Headquartered in Egham, Surrey, they employ roughly 27,000 people worldwide.
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Mr Lubner was appointed CEO of the company in May 2000. In a 2016 interview for BizNews, he said “the business has been in my blood all the way through.”
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His Jewish grandparents had fled the religious pogroms of Russia in the early 20th century as refugees.
Speaking to the Financial Times this week, Mr Lubner said his son, a Labour student activist, was “abused, pilloried, attacked” when Jeremy Corbyn was at the party’s helm.
The MP for Islington North since 1983 was last month blocked from standing at the next election by Sir Keir for allowing anti-semitism to fester within Labour during his time as leader between 2015 and 2020.
Mr Lubner praised Mr Corbyn’s successor for ridding the party of the “cancer” of hateful rhetoric that had plagued it.
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Stepping down from Belron’s top job in March, Mr Lubner claimed he had benefitted from “highly leveraged incentive schemes” that had left him a very rich man.
His intention to give most of his wealth away chimes with his fondness for philanthropic endeavours. He is a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Trust, and regularly participates in sporting events to raise money for charity.
After his 40th birthday he started the “Spirit of Belron Challenge” – a triathlon that he and hundreds of colleagues run every year for South African charity, Afrika Tikkun.
When asked if he had any dirty secrets, Mr Lubner answered: “Supporting West Ham.”
Mr Lubner, who has evaded the spotlight for most of his career, said he had wanted Sir Keir to get to power for a “long time”, and has been ramping his investment in this aim of late as Labour’s general election prospects look better than ever.
In the recent past he has donated £42,000 to pay the salary of one of Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’ staffers.
He said that his £5million gift was only “the beginning”, adding: “I intend to give more as we move towards the general election.”
The donation makes Mr Lubner one of the party’s leading financial backers and is sure to bring him under intense scrutiny over the coming years. With trade union support waning, Labour received £2.7million from individual donors last year and £633,000 from private companies.
Last year the party received £6million in total political contributions. Sir Keir’s inner circle believes this threshold will now be crossed within the first six months of 2023 alone.
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