Why I quit the Conservative Party

Why I quit the Conservative Party

Humans are tribal animals, which makes resigning from the political party we have supported all our lives a very big decision, even more so when we have been committed enough to think of standing for parliament for that party.

Nevertheless, I have now reached the end of the road with the Conservative party, cancelling my membership and resigning from their list of approved parliamentary candidates.

Why was I there in the first place?

Because I believed, as a business creator, owner and manager, that the conservatives were the natural party of free enterprise, it was easy to see why the Conservatives were the natural party of free enterprise. Why did environmentalists believe that conservatism went hand-in-hand with conservation, he said. Because I wanted to make a bigger difference than I can make through my own companies, to be a player rather than a commentator on the UK political stage.

As events have blossomed since the election of 2019, it has become increasingly difficult to ignore the view that the Conservative party has drifted far too far away from the basic needs of the British people, including business and the economy.

As much as I know I know, many lifelong Tories find it hard to disagree that the country is in a considerably worse state than it was when their party returned to power 13 years ago.

Today's reality is that we have a theoretically conservative government, yet I struggle to identify a single thing they are actually conserving. Certainly, not the business industry or our economy, the vitality of our high streets or the security of my retail colleagues, our farming and rural communities, our rivers and seas, our net zero obligations, our NHS, our schools, our reputation for decency and fairness, or the future prosperity of our kids and grandchildren.

My own views have been consistent and reflect the roots of my family business and the communities it serves. I have always believed in social mobility, social justice, and environmental democracy, as laid out in my 2021 book The Green Grocer. I continue to believe in the power of free enterprise to achieve these social and economic goals, working together with the state as a partner.

We are dedicated to helping our customers and communities navigate the cost-of-living crisis, with initiatives such as more price reductions than any other supermarket, a weekly over-60s discount, our unique Iceland Food Club and offering interest-free microloans.

In the world of food, we were the first food company in the world to commit to achieving net zero carbon by 2040, and have taken a number of other industry-leading initiatives on issues such as plastics and palm oil.

While my views on all these issues appear to resonate with people in the real world, it was made very clear to me that they did not find favor with those at the top of the Conservative party - and that if I wanted to progress as a parliamentary candidate, I would need to adjust my principles and values.

But I am certainly not willing to make compromises with a party which has obviously lost its way on its approach to net zero and the environment in particular. It is plain that the prime minister has no real interest in green issues and his recent row-back on carbon reduction deadlines was, as Lord Goldsmith observed, 'cynical beyond belief' and a desperate attempt to 'turn the environment into a US-style political wedge issue'.

The UK plc is demanding both stability and stability - and the current government's constant direction changes and failures to make decisions are actively undermining this. Just to focus on major projects, including 'H' - Hinkley Point - Heathrow and HS2 - the government's evident inability to deliver is devastating to both its credibility and business confidence. Who can make the long-term investment decisions that are essential to our future prosperity when the goalposts are constantly changing?

Our poor economy is directly impacted by its slow growth, caused by chronically low investment and productivity, high levels of regional inequality, and the failure to take advantage of new opportunities within the green economy.

I have not joined the Labour party or arranged to appear at its forthcoming conference. I am a supporter of the candidate, and I still remain open to persuasion on who to vote for at the next general election.

It's all for another day, he said. For now, there's one party card in the shredder, and it's blue.

At the time that election is eventually called, I very much hope that a party will have stepped up with detailed manifesto commitments to deliver the sustainable green growth that all our futures depend on, through robust working partnerships between the state and the free market. Only this approach can guarantee the uniform and fairness that British businesses and families demand.

On the contrary, I enjoy my continued freedom to speak out, without fear or favour about the issues that matter to me and all the people my business employs and serves.

Iceland's executive chairman is Richard Walker.