Ex-Tory minister makes 'substantial' donation to Lib Dem candidate

PUBLISHED: 15:40 18 November 2019 | UPDATED: 08:58 19 November 2019

A former Conservative minister has made a “substantial”, undiscolsed donation to the Liberal Democrats - supporting Sam Gyimah in Kensington. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA

A former Conservative minister has made a "substantial", undiscolsed donation to the Liberal Democrats - supporting Sam Gyimah in Kensington. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA

PA Wire/PA Images

A former Conservative minister had made a large, undisclosed donation to the Liberal Democrats as fears mount within the Tory ranks that Boris Johnson could take the UK out of the EU without a trade deal.

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Timothy Sainsbury, a former trade minister under Margaret Thatcher and the youngest son of Lord Sainsbury who founded the supermarket chain, donated an undisclosed but "substantial" amount to Sam Gyimah's campaign in his home constituency of Kensington.

The Financial Times report that Sir Timothy, who was responsible for UK trade policy when Britain entered the European single market in 1993, said he had previously never donated to or voted for any party other than the Tories.

His brother David Sainsbury, former chairman of the eponymous supermarket chain, also gave more than £2m to the anti-Brexit Lib Dems in the months before the 2016 EU referendum.

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"I felt at the time and still now that Brexit is damaging for the country," Sir Timothy said.

"But the tipping point is that we were promised frictionless trade with Europe and what we are getting is a government and a cabinet that seems to tolerate no deal, or at least want a very hard Brexit which could turn a bad situation into potentially a disastrous one."
Gyimah is a former Conservative minister himself. He defected to the Lib Dems in September after having the whip stripped for defying the prime minister and voting for legislation which would stop a no-deal Brexit.

The Liberal Democrats said the donation was "substantial", and added they believe they have a chance of making gains in the marginal Remain-supporting, seat of Kensington, which Labour took from the Tories at the 2017 election with a majority of 20 votes.

Sam Gyimah said: "Timothy Sainsbury is someone who knows what it is to leave on WTO terms and how damaging it will be. Boris Johnson hasn't ruled it out and leaving with no-deal is still very much a possibility.

"His decision to endorse me in Kensington and the Lib Dems nationally confirms what we've seen on the ground, which is that there are many Conservatives who feel deeply uncomfortable."

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