A major Tory donor known as “David Cameron’s favourite plumber” has announced that he’s defected to the Lib Dems in a bid to stop Brexit.
Pimlico Plumbers director Charlie Mullins gave the Tories almost £65,000 between 2015 and 2017 – including three donations worth £16,250 before and after last year’s general election.
His personal website includes photos of him with Theresa May, Boris Johnson, George Osborne and David Cameron, who took advice from Mullins on business issues as Prime Minister.
The millionaire was given an OBE under Cameron and was a regular at the Black and White Ball fundraiser for the Tories’ richest donors.
But relations between the stridently pro-EU Mullins and the Tories soured last year after he criticised Theresa May’s approach to Brexit.
Mullins revealed in December that he had been banned from this year’s Black and White Ball as a consequence of his comments.
And now he’s revealed he has agree to bankroll the Lib Dems in the hope of stopping of Brexit. Speaking on Sky News today, he said:
“I’m up for reversing Brexit. I’m not going to beat about the bush.
“I’ve just totted up with Vince Cable and the Lib Dems and I’m going to financially support it and do the best I can to stop Britain going into disaster.”
Mullins published a blog on his website today claiming that Brexit is the underlying cause of recent high street job losses. He writes:
“It is evident to see that Brexit is crippling our retail industry and this is why I’ve joined Vince Cable in pushing for a second referendum by the end of this year! It’s a complete no-brainer!”
And yesterday he revealed he had met Cable and Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake at Westminster to “hatch a plan for a second referendum.”
Mullins support will undoubtedly be good for the bank balance of the Lib Dems, who received roughly a sixth of the amount given to the Tories in the final quarter of 2017, according to the latest donation figures.
But it will also be controversial because of the millionaire’s record on workers’ rights.
Mullins said it was “absolutely disgraceful” when the Unison trade union won a landmark Surpreme Court battle against tribunal fees that prevent workers upholding their rights.
And he’s currently waiting to hear the result of his own Supreme Court challenge to a ruling about one of his former staff that could prove vital for the rights of workers in the gig economy.
Mullins has avoided paying millions of pounds in national insurance contributions by employing staff as self-employed contractors. That also means they don’t receive sick pay or holiday pay.
A tribunal found in 2012 that one of Mullins’ plumbers, Gary Smith, should have been considered a worker and received all the rights that come with that.
Mullins has been challenging the ruling for the past 5 years. After his last unsuccessful court battle, the GMB union said:
“While these plumbers are making Charlie Mullins even more millions he needs to get his house in order and start respecting basic workers’ rights.”
Mullins also wrote yesterday that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would be as “disastrous” as Brexit.
A Lib Dem spokesperson told Scrapbook:
“As Charlie Mullins said on Sky News, he has committed to donating to the Liberal Democrats’ campaign to stop Brexit. The Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to giving the people a say on the final Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU.
“We welcome Charlie on board as a fellow traveller, committed to reversing Brexit.”
There’s no doubt the Tory’s electoral coalition is falling appart over Brexit. But should the Lib Dems be welcoming the likes of Mullins?