Image source, PA Media
The boss of Iceland supermarkets, who had hoped to become a Conservative MP, has quit the party, labelling it “out of touch”.
The attack from Richard Walker came on the eve of the annual Conservative conference, as delegates gathered in Manchester.
Mr Walker told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that the party was losing touch with business and consumers.
The Conservatives declined to comment on the record.
But party sources told the BBC that Mr Walker had frequently criticised the government in public.
They added that he and his father had been lobbying very senior party figures over the summer, to try to secure Mr Walker a seat, while also pointing out that Labour had been in touch with him too.
Richard Walker’s father, Sir Malcolm Walker, was the founder of the Iceland supermarket chain.
Mr Walker told Laura Kuenssberg: “It’s become clear to me over recent months that the Conservative Party are drifting out of touch with the needs of business, of the environment and the everyday people my business touches and serves.”
Announcing his decision to resign from the party earlier on Saturday, as well as withdrawing from the approved list of potential MPs, Mr Walker hit out at what he called a “sluggish economy” and “high levels of regional inequality”.
“Today’s reality is that we have a nominally Conservative government, yet I struggle to name a single thing they are actually conserving.
“Certainly not the business sector or our economy, the vitality of our high streets or the safety 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 grandkids.”
He claimed he was warned by senior Conservative figures that his outspoken views on the environment and social issues weren’t welcome, but he had concluded: “I won’t wear a gag to bag a seat.
“I am not prepared to change my values and principles to suit a party that has itself lost its way.”
He has also previously spoken about the impact of rising prices on his customers, saying some have been forced to use food banks.
He said had made the comments “in error” in a draft article for Mail Online about threats of violence against store workers by shoplifters.